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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

NORTH CAROLINA: Conversations on Sex Lacking Between Doctors and Teens


Medical Xpress (12.30.2013) Aids Weekly Plus

Medical Xpress recently reported on a study showing that doctors were not providing information on sex to their adolescent patients during annual visits. Doctors also can use the annual visit to promote healthy behaviors by discussing topics such as tobacco and alcohol use. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that physicians talk about sex with teenage patients, as such conversations provide an opportunity to discuss sexual development, sexually transmitted infections, and preventing pregnancy. Researchers from Duke University in Durham, N.C., including lead author Stewart Alexander PhD, associate professor of medicine, made audio recordings of 253 12–17-year-olds’ visits to pediatricians and family medicine physicians at 11 North Carolina clinics. The visits included camp and sports physicals. The researchers listened to the recordings for conversations about sexual activity, sexuality, and dating. Findings showed that physicians mentioned sex in 65 percent of visits and the conversations lasted an average of 36 seconds. Researchers concluded that the time spent discussing sex was inadequate to provide information on sexual health and prevention needs. Also, since none of the teenagers began the discussion on sex, the physician has to be the one to introduce the topic. Alexander noted that it is difficult to treat adolescents and help them make healthy choices about sex if physicians do not have these discussions with them. The full report, “Sexuality Talk During Adolescent Health Maintenance Visits,” was published online in JAMA Pediatrics (2013; doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4338).


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Information in this article was accurate in January 6, 2014. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.