New report reveals majority of Colorado high school seniors have had sex Experts use data to advocate for sex education
DENVER— More than half of young people in Colorado became sexually active by 12th grade, according to a newly released report by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Trailhead Institute. The 2018 State of Adolescent Sexual Health report illustrates the importance of education to ensure young people can make informed decisions about their sexual health.
“This report lays out key recommendations to help Colorado communities build positive policies, practices and norms that shape young people’s choices and decisions,” said Danielle Tuft, Sexual Violence Prevention Program manager at the state health department. “We can use this data to continue creating environments where young people thrive.”
The report details the most current local and national data on youth sexual health, including a summary of key findings from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Healthy Kids Colorado Survey of students in grades 6-12 throughout the state.
The report’s key findings include the following:
In 2017, almost one-third of Colorado high school students reported ever having sex. Among 12th-graders, more than half (52.6 percent) reported having had sex.
From 2007 to 2017, Colorado experienced a 61 percent decrease in birth rates among young people ages 15-19. However, of all births among young people, the majority (72.9 percent) were unintended pregnancies.
Colorado continues to be a national leader in the number of youth using a Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive (LARC) method for contraception; 10.3 percent of sexually active youth reported using a LARC method, compared to only 5.3 percent of their national peers.
Reported sexually transmitted infections have increased significantly among youth ages 15-19 between 2016 and 2017. Gonorrhea rates increased 30.4 percent, HIV rates increased 23.3 percent, and chlamydia rates increased 7.2 percent.
Youth who felt connected to a trusted adult and to school were more likely to delay sexual initiation and use condoms. These connected youth also were less likely to be bullied on school property or electronically, less likely to experience sexual violence, and less likely to have attempted suicide.
In 2017, more than one in three transgender youth and one in 10 female youth reported experiencing sexual violence in their lifetime.
In areas that lack equitable access to resources, such as economic opportunities, transportation and health care, the statistics are even more alarming:
Birth rates among young people in rural counties continue to be notably higher than in urban counties and are decreasing at a much lower rate.
Hispanic and black youth were almost three times more likely to give birth at a young age compared to their white peers.
The State of Adolescent Sexual Health report addresses the inequities, recommending that factors leading to disparities based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race/ethnicity and geography are heavily considered in prevention strategies.
“The data and recommendations included in the SASH report enable key decision-makers at the community and state level to make informed decisions about youth sexual health initiatives and priorities,” said Holly Coleman, Trailhead Institute’s program director for youth sexual health.