Inclusive Sex Education

The sexual health of adolescents must be supported in order to prevent HIV. It is essential to educate adolescents about their bodies, healthy relationships and sexual behaviors, gender identity and sexual orientation, substance use, and violence. This education must also address the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) adolescents.

The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) recommends comprehensive sexual health education programs that promote behaviors to prevent or reduce the risk of HIV, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and pregnancy. These interventions may suggest a number of sexual behaviors that keep young people safe (e.g., abstinence, condom use, contraception use) and may include activities such as condom distribution and STI testing. The Task Force found sufficient evidence of effectiveness in:

  • Reducing a number of self-reported risk behaviors, including:
    • Engagement in any sexual activity
    • Frequency of sexual activity
    • Number of partners, and
    • Frequency of unprotected sexual activity
  • Increasing the self-reported use of protection against pregnancy and STIs
  • Reducing the incidence of self-reported or clinically-documented STIs

Despite the evidence supporting the effectiveness of comprehensive sexual health education programs, many LGBTQ students reported having access to few relevant resources. The GLSEN 2015 National School Climate Survey found that not even half (42.4%) of students reported being able to find LGBTQ-related information in their school libraries, and only half (49.1%) reported being able to access LGBTQ-related information online via school computers. GLSEN's report highlights this and other experiences of LGBTQ youth in schools, and the accompanying State Snapshots provide a state-by-state look at school experiences in 30 states.

Community-based providers, teachers, administrators, policymakers, parents, community members, and adolescents themselves all play a role in ensuring access to inclusive sex education and curricular resources. Across the country, these stakeholders can build community support for inclusive health education by:

  • Speaking with key community stakeholders such as teachers, principals, school committee members, and policymakers
  • Being champions for organizations in the community that deliver medically accurate comprehensive sex education and create safe and accepting spaces for LGBTQ people
  • Providing a positive example in the community of stigma-free conversations around adolescent sexual health and HIV prevention

In addition, stakeholders can support LGBTQ youth by:

  • Creating safe and accepting spaces for LGBTQ people
  • Supporting school and state policies that require health education, medically accurate comprehensive sex education, and school and community spaces that are safe and accepting of LGBTQ people
  • Supporting anti-bullying/harassment policies in schools

Youth HIV Facts

Only 35% of high school health programs provide services specifically for gay, lesbian, and bisexual students.
Source: 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Article Resource

Advocates for Youth, Answer, GLSEN, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Planned Parenthood, and SIECUS urge educators, advocates, and policymakers to take immediate, concrete steps to provide LGBTQ-inclusive sex education for all youth.

Testimonial Headshot
Schools can provide comprehensive sex education, ensure access to reproductive care, and support positive youth development to reduce risk-taking."

Midge - Providence, RI

Youth HIV Facts

75% of LGBTQ youth in schools w/ inclusive curricula said peers accepted LGBTQ people v. 40% in schools without.
Source: 
GLSEN 2015 National School Climate Survey
Page last updated: April 2018