Young people are not being offered regular effective sex and relationships education in Scotland’s schools, with poor knowledge of HIV transmission, a leading charity has found.

HIV Scotland surveyed 2,806 pupils across 418 schools in 19 council areas and found 57% of pupils were not having sex ed during the current school year. It also found that a third of pupils thought HIV could be transmitted through toilet seats, 45% through spitting and 27% through kissing, with nearly a quarter of those surveyed relying on TV and the internet for sex ed information.

img_0446-1Nathan Sparling, Head of Policy & Campaigning at HIV Scotland said:

“Let’s be clear, HIV cannot be transmitted through spitting, kissing or toilet seats. When people living with HIV are on effective treatment, the virus is reduced to such a low level in their body that they are not able to pass the virus on to others. These facts should be used to inform new generations about HIV, challenging stigma at the same time.”

The research heard from participants spread across the country, from Orkney to Dumfries and Galloway, with the majority of schools (84%) offering some kind of sexual health lessons. However, one-third of pupils said they didn’t know how to minimise the risk of HIV, with 22% claiming lessons do not provide enough information.

One Dundee pupil has spoken of their recent experience, telling us they had no information on HIV transmission whatsoever.

Niko Cavanagh, aged 17, said:

“In the 6 years of high school I think I had sex ed maybe 3 times and most of it was about how to put on a condom or about having safe sex. I didn’t find it effective atall and they certainly didn’t cover HIV or same-sex relationships and that’s just in the past few years. I just didn’t know what HIV was or how it was transmitted, I had to research it for myself on the internet.”

Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) lessons are part of the Curriculum for Excellence in Scottish schools, although there is no directive on what topics must be taught. The TIE Campaign have been working with the Scottish Government on a review of educational principles to ensure the curriculum is LGBT-inclusive, with a working group expected to report its finding and recommendations by the end of 2018.

You can read the survey findings here.

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