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National News

Teens Don't Realize Risks of Their Oral Sex Practices

February 25, 2003

It is a taboo topic that parents, educators and health care providers have been discussing quietly for the past couple of years, and with a greater sense of urgency. Many teenagers are having oral sex and risk contracting HIV and other STDs in doing so. In a survey of teens conducted last year by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation with Seventeen magazine, 23 percent of students questioned in seventh through 12th grade have had oral sex. The number increases to 42 percent in 11th and 12th grade. The survey also found that 30 percent did not know that a boy or girl could become infected with HIV by having oral sex.

When Dr. Beth Gearhart, a gynecologist, discovered herpes simplex virus type 1 lesions in the genitalia of about a dozen girls over a two-month span a couple of years ago, she called school districts to report the trend. Gearhart offered to visit schools to talk about the risks but was told parents did not want the issue raised directly with students. Rather, Gearhart got invitations to talk to parents and educators. "It's too bad schools have to take this role," she said. "There are so many other better things for them to be teaching. But ... parents don't seem to be taking on that role."

A Kaiser Foundation study found that 80 percent of parents approve of junior and senior students being taught birth control methods, and 94 percent want teachers to discuss the pressure to have sex and the emotional consequences of becoming sexually active. However, one in three schools nationwide teaches an abstinence-only curriculum that forbids talking about oral sex or safe sex. "Some of the students who are getting the abstinence-only message fully believe that they are engaging in abstinent behavior when they are having oral sex," says Tina Hoff, vice president for public health information at the Kaiser Foundation.

Experts say another problem is the emotional fallout of having oral sex, especially for girls. Often, the girl is providing oral sex to the boy as a way of starting or maintaining a relationship.

Back to other CDC news for February 25, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Tallahassee Democrat
02.17.03; Cynthia Billhartz



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 

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