High teen STD cases prompt calls for better education 

Angie Tan

Authorities and civil society groups say sex education in the classrooms is about teaching children about sex but it does not dwell on protection from sexually transmitted diseases. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 16, 2023.

THE alarming statistic of teenagers infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) has raised a red flag among the authorities and civil society groups.

From 2018 to 2022, a total of 913 teenagers in the country were infected with STDs.

On October 30, Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek told parliament there were 255 cases in 2018, 225 cases in 2019, 191 in 2020, 96 in 2021 and 146 in 2022.

Society for Scientific Sexuality Kuala Lumpur and Selangor vice-chairman Tan Hoon Kian said it was time for the authorities to relook sex education in classes or the trend will continue on an upward trajectory.

“Sex education in the classrooms is about teaching children about sex but it does not dwell on protection,” she said.

She gave examples, such as how to protect oneself during sexual intercourse so as not to get pregnant.

All of this was only on the surface without in-depth study.

She added that teenagers can still find answers through websites but there is no way to verify whether the answers are correct.

She said schools often worry about teaching too much to children but the reality is that even if they are not taught, there are still ways to learn about intercourse.

According to data on sexually transmitted diseases, adolescents are infected with diseases including syphilis, gonorrhea and HIV.

Sex and psychology counsellor Dr Tan Chee Seng believes that as teenagers become more open-minded, the rise of STD cases will only worsen in the future. 

He said there are two possibilities for adolescents to contract STDs.

“They may be ignorant about how sexually transmitted diseases occur. They only know that sexual intercourse can lead to pregnancy. They never realised they could get STDs.

“Or, even if they knew the risk of STDs, they took a chance and thought it’s unlikely it would happen to them.”

In this regard, he said sex education should be strengthened to get teenagers to understand how STDs spread.

“It should be taught to them that in order to live as healthy teenagers, they should not have this kind of premarital sex, especially when they are still in school, and they should not have sex with anyone.”

He said sex education and sexually transmitted diseases are closely related, so only by improving the root causes can the problem be solved.

“Teacher training also needs to be strengthened. Because we find that many times when it comes to sex, teachers find it difficult to talk about it and have no way to deal with the problems of teenagers.” – November 16, 2023.

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