Thursday, October 18th, 2012
The vaccine against human papillomavirus, which is the sexually transmitted virus that raises the risk of cervical and other cancers, has been a source of controversy among some parents who worry that vaccinating young girls and boys will inadvertently teach them that sex is permissible and safe. But a new study published this week in the journal Pediatrics has found that having the vaccine does not alter sexual behavior at all. The New York Times reports:
Looking at a sample of nearly 1,400 girls, the researchers found no evidence that those who were vaccinated beginning around age 11 went on to engage in more sexual activity than girls who were not vaccinated.
“We’re hopeful that once physicians see this, it will give them evidence that they can give to parents,” said Robert A. Bednarczyk, the lead author of the report and a clinical investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research Southeast, in Atlanta. “Hopefully when parents see this, it’ll be reassuring to them and we can start to overcome this barrier.”
HPV, the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States, can cause cancers of the cervix, anus and parts of the throat. Federal health officials began recommending in 2006 that girls be vaccinated as early as age 11 and last year made a similar recommendation for preadolescent boys. The idea is to immunize boys and girls before they become sexually active to maximize the vaccine’s protective effects.
Image: Tween girl and boy, via Shutterstock
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Monday, August 20th, 2012
Though the number of teenagers who engage in oral sex remains high, with more than a third of American teenagers trying it at least once by age 17, it has decreased since 2002, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found. From CNN:
The study – based on computer surveys given to over 6,000 teens – also looked at the timing of first oral sex in relation to the timing of first vaginal intercourse. It found that the prevalence of having oral sex before vaginal intercourse was about the same as those having vaginal intercourse before oral sex.
“This new CDC analysis debunks many myths about when young people are initiating oral sex,” wrote Leslie Kantor, vice president for education at Planned Parenthood, a family planning advocacy group. “Although there has never been data to support it, there has been the perception that many teens engage in oral sex as a ‘risk-free’ alternative to intercourse. But the CDC analysis shows that sexually active young people are likely to engage in both activities,” she wrote.
But oral sex, like vaginal intercourse, is not risk-free. According to the CDC’s website, “numerous studies have demonstrated that oral sex can result in the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted disease,” not the least of which is Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the disease known to cause both cervical and some throat cancers.
Image: Teenage couple, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
The number of American teenagers who are having sex and exhibiting behaviors that put them at risk for sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and AIDS is declining, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced. But the CDC’s analysis of recent data suggests that cuts to school sex education programs may put this progress at risk. MSNBC.com has more:
CDC data presented on Tuesday show just 47 percent of high school students have ever had sex, down from 54 percent in 1991 and holding steady since about 2001. Much progress has been seen among black students: in 1991, 82 percent of black high school students had started having sex but this plummeted to 60 percent by 2011. Just 15 percent of all students have had more four or more sex partners, down from 19 percent in 1991.
And 60 percent of those who are sexually active used a condom, which can protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases including the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS….
The CDC’s Dr. Kevin Fenton says it’s the frank talk about sex that works. “The more comprehensive an education you provide, the better,” Fenton said in an interview. But he noted there is variation across the country, with some school districts choosing abstinence-only education while others offer a full curriculum that includes discussion of lesbian gay and transgender themes as well as how to respect one another in a relationship.
Budget cuts aren’t helping. “Data show that fewer schools provide the comprehensive HIV education needed to ensure that this trajectory continues,” Fenton said. Another barrier: socially conservative movements that reject sex education. Fenton is diplomatic when he is asked about school districts and parents who fear that sex education teaches poor morals.
“Part of what we are committed to doing is to provide evidence,” he said. “We try to make our recommendations on the best available evidence.” Studies show that a comprehensive sex education program can influence sexual behavior more than a limited approach.
Image: Condom, via Shutterstock
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Friday, May 25th, 2012
Bedford-Stuyvesant Preparatory High School in Brooklyn, N.Y. will have 500 condoms available at the school’s upcoming prom for students to take as they see fit. From MSNBC.com:
“As they leave the prom, they are welcome to it,” school principal Darryl Rascoe said in an interview. “We are not forcing it on anybody, but we want them to have that option.”
Worries about underage drinking or risky sex on prom night have prompted scores of prevention programs at schools around the country, from scheduling the event on weeknights to chaperoned after-parties.
But handing out free condoms as part of the festivities is a wrong move, says Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, an advocacy group that resists comprehensive sex education in schools. “We are concerned that the distribution of condoms on school campuses further normalizes teen sex,” she told msnbc.com via email.
Image: Couple at prom, via Shutterstock.
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Monday, October 31st, 2011
The American Academy of Pediatrics, which has long recommended HIV screening for teenagers who admit to being sexually active, is now recommending that all teenagers between ages 16 and 18 receive regular HIV testing if they live in an area where the HIV infection rate is higher than 0.1 percent of the population.
“We’re finding that when targeted testing is offered to sexually active youth… we’re not getting those youth to actually test and we have not decreased the number of new infections in [that] population,” says Dr. Jaime Martinez, an adolescent medicine specialist with Stroger Hospital of Cook County in Chicago. He deals with HIV-infected youth daily and is one of the authors of the AAP paper.
In 2006, there were more than 1.1 million HIV-positive people living in the United States. Of that population, the CDC says 5% were adolescents and young adults, ages 13 to 24 years old. That may seem like a small overall percentage but consider this: Upwards of 70% of new HIV infections are caused by people of all ages who are unaware of their HIV-positive status. Roughly one of every two HIV-infected adolescents don’t know they’re positive.
“I can’t think of a downside [to testing],” says Martinez. “We find that youth who test and become aware of whether they’re affected… become more conscious about engaging in safer sex practices.”
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