In June 2015 the Hawaii Board of Education passed a revision to the Sex Education Policy resulting in a new approach. Prior to this change the education methods were entirely abstinence-based. The new goals are to open an ongoing conversation using age-appropriate curriculum that promotes dialogue, both at home and in class, on healthy sexual practices as they change through the maturation process.
Evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs have been shown to change teens’ sexual behavior by increasing youths’ knowledge and understanding of risk around pregnancy and STDs. By educating youth about contraception, sexual values, and confidence to avoid unprotected sex the Board of Education hopes to reduce incidences.
Sexual health education in Hawaii still has challenges, including financing, curriculum , and encouraging balanced parent involvement as well as educator training and instruction time. Cultural differences between local natives and the many non-Americans living on the islands is also an issue.
- Hawaii has one of the lowest rates of condom use nationwide according to the 2013 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey. 54% did not use a condom during last sexual intercourse compared to 41% of youth nationally.
- Since 2001, cases of gonorrhea have continued to rise and there are some strains that are antibiotic resistant.
- Chlamydia infections are extremely high among male adolescents 10–19 years (1,944 cases per 100,000)
- Teen pregnancy rates are still high in rural areas
We know that the demographics in Hawaii can play a key role in health disparities across age, ethnic background, and income level. The combined population for the Hawaiian Islands is almost 1.5 million people with the split being equal male and female. The racial makeup includes 38% Asian, 24% white, 10% native Hawaiian, and 23% being composed of two or more races combined.
Those in rural communities face health access consequences associated with living in remote regions and may have limited access to health-care and public clinics. Additionally, transportation and fear of confidentiality in such small communities may be part of the challenge. Those identified at highest risk include:
- early school failure
- students who obtain poor grades or have low achievement scores
- early behavioral problems
- addicted persons
- teens and adults who engage in delinquent activities
- teens with dysfunctional families
- those living in poverty
Other demographic contributors include:
- 91% have a high school diploma with 30% having obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- 5% of those residing in Hawaii do not have health insurance.
- 10% of people living in Hawaii live below the poverty rate with a median household income of $69,000 combined.
- The rate of black women who have HIV is almost 3 times that of white women.
- The rate of Hispanic females with HIV is half that of white females.
- People diagnosed with HIV are predominantly men who engage with sex with other men.
- For women, next to heterosexual sex, injection drug use is the second-highest transmission category with 27% of women affected being injection drug users.
The good news for the people of Hawaii is the islands are home to many clinics and testing facilities who share a goal of making personalized sexual health care easy to access and affordable for everyone. There are local options that include:
- same day results
- free testing
- private appointments
- anonymous testing
- testing at home
- mail order tests
- teen centers
With all these options, it has never been so easy to take charge of your own sexual health and regain the peace of mind that comes with a clean bill-of-health! Remember, visitors to our island come for adventure and romance- don’t get swept away and forget to keep yourself safe!