Committed to Heightening Awareness and Providing Tools for Fighting STI and BBI
The goal of Sexperts McGill: The Sexual Education Project is to curb the increase in sexually transmitted infections and blood-borne infections (STI and BBI) among teenagers. Founded in the fall of 2005 by students in the health sciences at McGill University, the project has already reached out to more than 400 high school students on the Island of Montréal and prompted many young people to take a screening test.
According to the masexualite.ca Web site, more than one out of five young people between the ages of 15 and 17 does not use contraception during sexual intercourse. Moreover, 29% of young males between the ages of 15 and 19 do not use condoms and for young women in the same age bracket, the figure is 51%. It was these alarming statistics that prompted the McGill students to commit themselves wholeheartedly to the project, developing an innovative approach that relies on the effectiveness of the message and the active participation of its student members.
Taking the form of dynamic interactive presentations, the interventions carried out by the members of the Sexperts group raise awareness among teenagers, enabling them to make the right decisions at the right time. “I had the pleasure of personally attending their presentations,” pointed out Johanne Pépin, a nurse at the CSSS Jeanne-Mance. “I was impressed by the quality of the presentations and by their ability to arouse the interest of young people in such important issues as STI and BBI, birth control and sexual orientation.”
As an accompanying tool for their presentations, the Sexperts McGill team wrote a 120-page guide for presenters and devised a wide range of activities for putting theory into practice. There is even a high demand for these tools from school social workers who wish to use them during their own work with students. “Basically, each encounter is an opportunity to stimulate dialogue with the adolescents and encourage them to believe in themselves and respect others. Our objective is not to bombard them with information, but instead to ensure that at the end of the presentation the students have the necessary tools to assess the risks associated with certain sexual practices,” said Marie-Renée B-Lajoie, the project’s spokeswoman.
Furthermore, thanks to the help of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations, the Sexperts McGill team has been able to share its tools with the Université de Montréal and Université Laval so that they can develop their own intervention project. In order to ensure the continuity of the project, McGill University intends to add the program to its curriculum of compulsory courses. And the group’s commitment will also soon be further demonstrated through a joint project on sexual health with the Médecins du monde organization.
“All these opportunities will help the Sexperts project establish a solid basis that will favour its expansion in the near future and enable the group to meet with high school students in different regions of Québec,” Marie-Renée hopes.