(HealthDay News) — Too few US schools teach students how to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, how to prevent pregnancy, and other important sexual health information, federal officials reported Wednesday. The report was released at the National HIV Prevention Conference, held from December 6 to 9 in Atlanta.

In most of the country, fewer than half of high schools and only one-fifth of middle schools teach all 16 sexual health education topics recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 44 states, the proportion of high schools that teach all 16 topics in grades nine, 10, 11, or 12 ranges from 21% in Arizona to 90% in New Jersey. Only three states — New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York — have more than 75% of high schools teaching all of the topics. The proportion of middle schools that teach all 16 topics in grades six, seven, or eight ranges from 4% in Arizona to 46% in North Carolina. No state had more than half of middle schools teaching all the topics, and in most states it was less than 20% of middle schools, according to the CDC report.

“We need to do a better job of giving our young people the skills and knowledge they need to protect their own health,” Jonathan Mermin, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention, said in an agency news release. “It’s important to teach students about healthy relationships and how to reduce sexual risk before they start to have sex.”

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