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With so many scare stories and AIDS and STDs, are teenagers having less sex than they used to

01:00 Mon 18th Feb 2002 |

asks Ursula:
Not at all. The most recent UK survey - The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles 1999-2001 - questioned 11,000 people over two years and came up with some interesting findings.

Q. Such as
The average age for first sex is now 16, although 30% of boys and 26% of girls don't wait that long.

Q. How do we know they were telling the truth and not just bragging
The people who were questioned filled in their answers on laptop computers at home, which makes the researchers believe they had no reason to lie as their answers were completely confidential.

Q. Are all these teenagers taking suitable precautions
Sadly no. Although attitudes to sex are much more relaxed than they used to be, today's teens are the most ignorant in Europe when it comes to preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. More than 90,000 teenagers get pregnant every year, many under 16.

Q. Aren't they taught about all that stuff at school
Well, yes, but not in a helpful way, it seems. Sex education at school has been accused of concentrating too much on the biology side and not nearly enough on preventing disease and pregnancy.

Also, sex education tends to be taught by women and boys find it embarrassing to be taught by someone they know.

Q. Aren't boys given sex education at home
Not as a rule. Sex education tends to be done by mothers, who feel more comfortable talking to girls and aren't so knowledgeable about male development. Boys are often just left to get on with it - with dangerous results.

Q. What's the danger
Apart from pregnancy, of course, is the danger of sexually transmitted diseases. Random urine samples taken recently showed that one in 45 men and one in 66 women were infected. Chlamydia is the most common infection - and the most common cause of female infertility. Cases of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis doubled between 1995 and 2000. There was also a record number of new HIV cases in 2000, with 3,616 people being diagnosed. So sex education for teens is more vital now than ever.

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