About one in 10 Victorian secondary school students is same-sex attracted, and most gay and lesbian students suffer discrimination and sexual, mental and emotional health problems, a report released this week reveals.
The report, a collaborative effort between the Royal Women’s Hospital, Family Planning Victoria and the Centre for Adolescent Health, found same-sex-attracted youth commonly experienced negative effects of homophobia.
The report found this could be a reason for higher rates of poor health outcomes in same-sex-attracted young people, such as emotional and mental disorder.
The report focused mainly on STIs, teenage pregnancy and the sexual health and education of Victorian secondary school students and young people aged between 12 and 25.
It recommended a number of outcomes, including a complete audit of current education programs, an audit of teachers who were involved in teaching sex education classes, and setting minimum standards for sex ed classes.
A spokesperson for Victorian Health minister Bronwyn Pike, who launched the study on Tuesday, said both she and Education minister Jacinta Allen would seriously consider a broad sexuality-based program across the state which included information specific to gay and lesbian youth.
Both ministers are on the record as being very supportive of gay and lesbian issues, the spokesperson said.
So where there are recommendations that would help gay and lesbian students and young people in the community, those will of course be taken seriously.
The minister called for an concerted education campaign: Young people need to be confident about the decisions they make with their bodies, and thoroughly educating them is proving to be the best way of achieving that, Pike said in a statement.
Professor Susan Sawyer, director of the Centre for Adolescent Health Royal Children’s Hospital, said the report highlighted the need to listen to young people about their own needs.
Schools are a very potent opportunity to provide an intervention to improve young people’s health, she said.
When we hear from young people that they value education programs, we need to sit up and listen.
The report, the first of its kind in Australia, also revealed gay young men were among the highest risk group for sexually transmitted diseases.
Young people’s knowledge of HIV transmission had decreased over the last 10 years, but knowledge of hepatitis A, B and C, although still poor, had improved since 1997.
The report advocated a review of health services for all youth to easily access sexual health information without fear of recrimination and breach of confidentiality.
Other recommendations included the formation of a ministerial advisory committee to develop a strategy to improve the sexual health outcomes of teenagers.