Background: Comprehensive high quality school-based sexuality education is a powerful tool for young people to understand the physical, social, and emotional changes of adolescence, know their political rights, learn to be active citizens, make healthy choices, and prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancies. Peru’s Ministry of Health agreed to a regional mandate for school-based sexuality education in 2008.
Methods: Quantitative data from a representative sample of 2,053 high school students aged 11-19 years-old [mean 14.2 years], from 8 geographically diverse cities in Peru was collected in 2007. Students completed self-administered surveys regarding their opinions of sexuality education and a knowledge quiz on essential sexuality topics. The knowledge quiz score was dichotomized into high (≥70%) and low knowledge (<70%). Chi-square tests were done to examine the relationship between student opinions regarding sexuality education and their knowledge. Multivariate logistic regression was done to adjust for confounding variables.
Results: In the bivariate analysis, student report that sexuality education was important was associated with high knowledge, compared to those who did not think it was important (42% vs. 32%, p<0.001). In the multivariate analysis, perceiving that sexuality education was important continued to be significantly associated with high knowledge (OR=1.37, p=0.002). Other significant variables were older age (OR=1.18, p<0.001), having been taught more essential sexuality education topics (OR=1.04, p=0.003) and reporting more sexuality education class exposure (OR=1.08, p=0.03). Sex and city were not significant.
Conclusions: Perceiving that sexuality education is important was strongly associated with improved knowledge. Involving young people as key stakeholders in the development of sexuality education curriculum may result in greater perception of importance. These are valuable considerations as Peru reexamines its school-based national sexuality education program.