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My first encounter with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) took place at 17. I had been to Manchester the previous weekend. I noticed that I needed to urinate more frequently. When I urinated there was a burning sensation. And it was gonorrhoea.

Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) at the school I attended was sporadic, hastily organised and far from comprehensive in its coverage. I was at secondary school in the late ‘90s and in the years shortly after the Millennium. SRE was improvised by teachers who had no training in the material covered. It was hard being a teenager at boarding school. I was trying to come to terms with my sexual identity in a homophobic environment. I have written about LGBT bullying and returning to my former school as a Stonewall Role Model. SRE, when I was at school, was neither LGBT inclusive nor informative around STIs. My experiences of SRE are fairly typical. We learned about HIV only briefly in biology classes. Now I am a happy and healthy HIV positive gay man and a proud LGBT activist. I am comfortable in who I am and comfortable in my HIV status. My HIV does not define me, although in many ways it has made me the person I am today. I went through an empowering process of acceptance around my HIV and emerged a stronger person. Looking back at my teenage years, I had many misconceptions about what it was like to be a gay man and what it was like to be HIV positive.

The Terrence Higgins Trust has recently launched a new campaign around SRE. Overall the Conservative Party have sat on the fence regarding SRE. On 11 February 2015, the all party select committee on education unanimously recommended an overhaul of SRE. The Conservative Party Manifesto 2015, however, sought to leave SRE to the discretion of schools. Some Conservatives support statutory SRE, but others remain to be convinced. They argue that the onus is on parents. Few parents, in fact, sit their children down for the proverbial conversation about “the birds and the bees.” Faith schools have been more reluctant to embrace SRE. As a passionate Christian, my view is that Jesus would want our young people to be well educated around sex and relationships, so that they can appropriately confront the challenges the world throws at them. It was a steep learning curve for me in my late ‘teens. We must ensure our young people are better prepared. It is time for the centre right to endorse SRE.

We need statutory SRE in both primary and secondary schools. At the moment SRE is compulsory only in maintained state schools, which account for 40 % of secondary schools. THT research has shown that one in seven young people receive no SRE at all. Furthermore, SRE must be age appropriate and LGBT inclusive. The THT report demonstrates that our young people want better SRE. Thirteen years after I left school, SRE is hardly ever LGBT inclusive. The THT found that only five per cent of students were taught about LGBT relationships. Seventy-five per cent of children had not been taught about consent. Children want this information at a young age and they want it repeated frequently. Society has changed. From the Same-Sex Marriage Act in 2013, to increasing acceptance around trans identity, our society is radically different compared to 2000, when the English government guidance on SRE was last revised. The guidance must be updated not just on LGBT issues, but also on the revolution that has seen smart phone technology become one of the main ways in which children communicate. Children need to learn how to navigate the internet safely.

My nightmare with gonorrhoea ended several weeks later when I went to an STI clinic in Edinburgh. The clinic gave me antibiotics and my symptoms subsided. Ignorance and innocence should not be confused. SRE should be made a compulsory part of the curriculum. The facts of life need to be explained, not ignored by schools. We have a moral obligation to nurture and protect our young people.

Philip Baldwin is a member of Bright Blue. He frequently writes for the Huffington Post. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue.