A look at Sask. STI and teen pregnancy rates amid province’s new sex education policies

Sask. Minister of Education Dustin Duncan announced new policies replated to sexual health education on Tuesday. Global News/ File

Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Education made some changes to how schools are able to approach sexual health education for kids, with many concerned about how this would affect children in the province.

Third-party organizations that focus on sexual health material have been barred from Saskatchewan schools for the time being after Tuesday’s announcement from the ministry.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan’s new education policy allows parents to opt out of sex-ed, choose their child’s pronouns'
Saskatchewan’s new education policy allows parents to opt out of sex-ed, choose their child’s pronouns

The ministry also announced that schools need to inform parents about the sexual health education curriculum and that parents can opt out of having their kids receive that education.

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The province suffers from some of the highest STI rates in the country and also has the highest rate of live births from adolescent pregnancies, excluding the Canadian territories.

HIV infections also plague the province, with 2020 statistics showing Saskatchewan as one of the top three highest increases in HIV infections, next to Ontario and Quebec.

The World Health Organization and the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS have a global health sector strategy to help eliminate AIDS as a public threat, but Saskatchewan was one of the seven provinces that didn’t meet those global HIV targets.

Click to play video: 'Sask. government introduces parental consent for sexual health education'
Sask. government introduces parental consent for sexual health education

Statistics Canada data shows that Saskatchewan had the second-highest rate of chlamydia cases in 2019, next to Manitoba.

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Out of the total chlamydia cases reported in the country, most of them were occurring in the 15-19 and 20-24 age groups, with people between the ages of 15 and 24 making up over 50 per cent of the total chlamydia cases in 2019.

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That same data also shows chlamydia cases on the rise across the country between 2010 and 2019, reaching 139,386 total cases from 94,716.

The province also ranked high on the charts for the number of gonorrhea cases in 2019, with 155.4 people per 100,000 population.

It was higher than the national rate, which was 94.3, and was only eclipsed by Manitoba, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Gonorrhea saw an increase across the country between 2010 and 2019 as well, with those rates more than tripling in that time period.

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Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation president reacts to government’s $40 million funding for education

Minister of Education Dustin Duncan said Tuesday that the new policies were intended to standardize the approach of school divisions across Saskatchewan.

“Parent/guardian involvement is critical in every student’s education,” Duncan said. “Schools will continue to ensure safe learning environments where all students feel included, protected and respected.”

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He said he had heard concerns from parents about needing to be notified about their children’s education in those areas.

The Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education from the Public Health Agency of Canada states that “sexual health education should be available to all Canadians as an important element of health promotion programs and services.”

It says sexual health education aims to avoid negative outcomes like STIs, HIV, sexual coercion and unintended pregnancy, but also helps people achieve positive outcomes like self-esteem, non-exploitive sexual relations and informed reproductive choices.

“All Canadians have a right to sexual health education that is relevant to their needs. Diverse populations such as sexual minorities, seniors, individuals with disabilities (physical/ developmental) and socio-economically disadvantaged individuals such as street involved youth often lack access to information and education that meets their specific needs,” reads the guidelines.

“Access to effective sexual health education requires ongoing support in both formal settings, such as schools, community groups, health and social service agencies and in informal settings where sexual health education is provided by parents, caregivers, peers and others.”

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