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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.

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Founder & President LetsStopAIDS - Shamin Mohamed Jr.

Sincerely, Shamin Mohamed Jr.
Founder & President LetsStopAIDS

Founder & President LetsStopAIDS - Shamin Mohamed Jr. as a background image

report overview

Theory vs. Practise

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) .

Missing in Action

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.

Condoms

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.

STI & HIV

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.

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SexLivesReport - We've Got Questions

theory vs. practice

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.

A man's hand is shown on a black background.

SexEd Filled Some Students with Fear and Shame

“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

Сonfused and insecure teenage girl sitting on the edge of the bed near her boyfriend

missing in action

What topics were not covered in Sex-Ed, but you wish you learned?

33%

Gender and Sexual Identity

Many respondents expressed their belief that the sexual education they received was primarily heteronormative, lacking coverage of diverse identities and failing to address the complexities of gender and sexual orientation. Only 34% of young Canadians recall learningabout sexuality and sexual orientation, and only 19% remember learning about gender identity.

20%

Consent/ Relationships

The respondents expressed a desire for a stronger focus on consent, feeling that it had been inadequately addressed in their sexual education. Sapna from Winnipeg shared “I believe the absolute first thing all youth should be taught about is Sex-Ed...a lack of education on consent is massively hurting our society”.

16%

Pleasure

The lack of curriculum addressing pleasure and positive aspects of sex was another evident theme in the responses. Many participants expressed their dissatisfaction with the absence of comprehensive information about the pleasurable aspects of sexual experiences. Lindsay from Moncton shared that she wished she learned “more about sex that is not penetrative between a man and woman. I wish I learned about a female orgasm because I did not understand it (as a woman) until I was 21 years old despite being sexually active since I was 16”.

11%

More Female Sexual Health

Respondents also pointed out the lack of knowledge shared specifically regarding female sexualhealth. They felt that their sexual education predominantly focused on male perspectives, neglecting crucial aspects of female reproductive health and sexuality. Jasmine from Canmore shared, “[I wish I had learnt about] Female anatomy; sex; female pleasure; information about IUDs and other forms of contraception.”

7%

Porn

Some respondents felt that the topic of porn and its negative as well as positive effects on youth was missing and necessary to cover given porn’s accessibility in today’s digital age. Noah from Barrie shared, “[I wish I had learnt about] “porn and how it affects the brain and the performance of your partner”

“How Often Do You Wear A Condom During Sex?”

Percentage of “All the time” responses.

53% (2020)

30% drop in response

23% (2023)

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

A silhouette of a male figure grasping a condom package, casting a distinct shadow.

80%

do not engage in regular STI and HIV testing

27%

diagnosed with STI(s) and/or HIV reported that they did not receive treatment

A desolate girl lying on a bed with her hands on her chest and her diary nearby.

“Which STI were you diagnosed with?”

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.

closing remarks

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.