Wed, Sep 30, 2009
my paper
One in 10 teens has had unsafe sex, survey shows

by Joy Fang

WHILE young people aged between 16 and 19 know about the importance of safe sex, one in 10 has had unprotected sex, a survey by research company TNS Healthcare has found.

The survey, which polled 200 teenagers via an online questionnaire in July this year, aimed to assess their understanding of sex and contraception.

Other results released yesterday showed that more than a third of respondents believe unreliable birth-control methods to be effective and use them, and more than half do not discuss contraception with their partners.

These findings echo past survey results. A survey taken from June to December last year found that 24 per cent of 365 tertiary students aged 17 to 20 are sexually active, but that only half use contraception.

Singapore Planned Parenthood Association president Edward Ong said that the figures are worrying, because a lack of knowledge among young people could lead to dangerous behaviour that puts them at risk of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

The incidence of sexually transmitted infections among teens rose from 238 cases in 2002 to 787 last year.

Dr Carol Balhetchet, director of youth services at the Singapore Children's Society, said ages 16 to 19 is the period of experimentation for teens.

"Also, the trend now is that if you are more sexually forward and upfront, more willing to try, then you're edgy and cool," she said.

Family members need to learn not to overreact and to talk to teens, so that they know they will not be punished and will listen to advice, she said.

Dr Vivien Ang, a 37-year-old general practitioner, suggested that increased exposure to the media and the Internet has made teens more sexually aware.

Better sex education in schools that gives them accurate information about contraception is needed, she said.

A 20-year-old student, who started having unprotected sex when he was 16, said that he is aware of the consequences, but continues because "it feels good, and it's fun".

He said: "I base everything on fate. No matter how safe you are, if you are unlucky, you will still get it."

joyfang@ sph.com.sg

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