Talking about sex can be awkward (but it shouldn’t be!)
Since our initial Sex Lives Report in 2022, LetsStopAIDS, in collaboration with the Angus Reid Group, has dug deep into the factors affecting Canadian youth's sexual experiences. We found Canadians were using fewer condoms, feeling more mental health pressures, and getting more sexually adventurous.
The report made waves, being featured in over 300 media outlets such as the National Post, Toronto Star, CTV, and Montreal Gazette, reaching millions across Canada.
This year, we aimed to delve into young people's relationship with their sexuality and gauge their knowledge on HIV and STI prevention. The message was loud and clear: The conventional methods of addressing sexuality are obsolete, more so in today's age that values equality, diversity, and respect. The omnipresence of social media, emerging online behaviours, and the tide of disinformation only add layers of complexity to this issue. We need a sex-positive & comprehensive approach to Sex-Ed.
For nearly two decades, as Canada's largest Youth-HIV charity, our mission has been clear: to raise HIV awareness, foster youth leadership, and reduce HIV-related stigma. This is pivotal. Without proper awareness, access to testing, prevention, and treatment remains elusive. And with prevalent stigma, talking about sex becomes harder.
Our research isn't merely an academic exercise. It strengthens our programmes and integrates youth in sculpting solutions. At LetsStopAIDS, we believe that youth plays a crucial role in the global response to HIV . And we are here to make that path possible.
Sincerely, Shamin Mohamed Jr.
Founder & President LetsStopAIDS
Evidently, young Canadians felt that Sex-Ed classes provided them
with an abundance of scientific information but was
severely lacking in practical knowledge or skills that may be
used in real life.
Currently, Sex-Ed is leaving youth without the practical knowledge that would help them navigate their sexual lives. Respondents noted the lack of explicit instruction on safe sexual practices that would reduce the chances of getting STI(s) .
Overwhelmingly, young Canadians had scathing reviews of their Sex-Ed experience. The most common topics they wish they had been taught were Gender & Sexual Identity, Consent & Relationships, Pleasure, Female Sexual Health, and the pros & cons of Porn.
The percentage of youth who reported wearing condoms “all the time” during sex went from 53% in 2020 to 23% in 2023. Given this shocking statistic, it is clear that youth are more susceptible to STI & HIV transmission. This research also makes clear that Canadian youth see condoms primarily as methods of pregnancy prevention.
Despite recent spikes in STI(s) and HIV transmission, and young people’s higher risk of being infected, 80% of young Canadians do not engage in regular STI and HIV testing. Additionally, a staggering 27% of youth diagnosed with HIV or an STI did NOT receive treatment.
1 in 3
young Canadians felt that Sex-Ed made them feel scared to have sex.
Young Canadians felt that Sex-Ed classes provided them with an abundance of scientific information but was severely lacking in practical knowledge or skills that may be used in real life.
Youth wanted more practical guidance and actionable information that would assist them in navigating sexual relationships, communication, decision-making, and acquiring the necessary skills to engage in safe and enjoyable sexual experiences.
“Being shamed for having sex and being told if you get raped you won’t get pregnant cause god knows you don’t want that baby.”
Jamie*, Dieppe New Brunswick
“[I remember] the teacher slut shaming one of the girls.”
Uche*, Mississauga, Ontario
“We were scared into thinking having sex will give you an STD or you’ll get pregnant and you’ll ruin your life.”
Zhāng*, Victoria British Columbia
What topics were not covered in Sex-Ed, but you wish you learned?
Gender and Sexual Identity
More Female Sexual Health
Percentage of “All the time” responses.
30% drop in response
In 2023, 33% of sexually active Canadian youth reported they never wore a condom during sex in the last 6 months.
While the trend to never wear a condom is concerning, there has been a general shift over the last year to reduce condom use overall. This is most alarming for the dramatic decline in the percentage of youth who reported wearing condoms “all the time” during sex, from 53% in 2020 to 23% in 2023
do not engage in regular STI and HIV testing
diagnosed with STI(s) and/or HIV reported that they did not receive treatment
Compared with the numbers from LetsStopAIDS’ Sex Lives Report in 2022, the number of youths diagnosed with Gonorrhea went down by half, those diagnosed with Chlamydia doubled. The percentage of youth diagnosed with HIV stayed the same at 8% from 2022 to 2023.
This online study was conducted by LetsStopAIDS among a representative sample of 1,090 Canadians 18-24 years who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The sample was balanced and weighted on gender and region. The survey was conducted in English and French. For comparison purposes only, a randomized sample of n=1,080 would yield a margin of error of +/1 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error. The Angus Reid Forum is Canada’s most well-known and trusted online public opinion community consisting of engaged residents across the country who answer surveys on topical issues that matter to allCanadians.