Let’s Talk About Sex, Guys

Sexual health screening and services from primary care doctors needed

(RxWiki News) Sex may be one of the foremost things teenage boys talk about – but not with their doctors. Two recent articles from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center say that needs to change.

Teen boys are not receiving the attention they need from family doctors at annual physical exams in terms of sexual health screening services. In fact, no established guidelines exist to help doctors determine what those services should be and the best way to deliver them.

"Teen boys should regularly discuss sexual health and development with their primary care doctors."

One report, appearing in the journal Pediatrics, emphasizes the lack of information provided to clinicians on how to best serve adolescent males’ sexual health needs.

Dr. Arik Marcell, the lead author of the Pediatrics report, specializes in adolescent health at Hopkins Children’s and said his research revealed that doctors are not delivering necessary sexual health screening and education services to teen boys because of limited time during visits, the lack of guidelines on best practices offering the services and a lack of evidence about the benefits of delivering these services.

Dr. Jonathan Ellen co-authored the other study, which compiled the recommendations of 17 primary care doctors who specialize in teen male health regarding the most essential sexual and reproductive services this population should regularly receive.

The services that topped the list included regular screening for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and annual genital exams that assess boys’ puberty development while screening for hereditary disorders that could affect sexual function and reproduction.

Doctors should also screen teen boys for substance abuse, mental health concerns and physical or sexual abuse, and they should discuss pregnancy prevention through condom use and abstinence.

Dr. Marcell said that past research has shown that nearly a third of teen boys have unprotected sex, and a quarter have unprotected sex or sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Yet he reports that pediatricians are three times more likely to discuss sexual history with girls than boys and twice as likely to discuss the importance of condom use with girls.

Dr. Marcell’s report adds that doctors should also make sure teen boys are vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B and for HPV at their visits, and they should encourage parents to talk to their sons about sexuality and health.

If time allows, clinicians in the second article recommend, doctors should talk to teen boys about their relationships with peers and parents and about their sexual identity, especially since gay, bisexual and transgender teens are at a higher risk for depression, substance abuse and suicide.

The articles appear in the December issues of Pediatrics and the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Review Date: 
December 15, 2011