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Researchers explain how to encourage teens to use contraceptives

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Over the years, doctors, nurses, community leaders and parents alike have all struggled to determine the best way to encourage young people to be safe about sexual activity. This means encouraging them to practice abstinence or use contraceptives that protect against unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and to use STD testing services. Recently, researchers from the New York University Silver School of Social Work and its Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health released a report of 12 evidence-based principles that they believe healthcare professionals can use to encourage teens to practice safer sex.

According to the researchers, their goal was to create counseling recommendations that are based on taking everything about adolescents into mind - from their developing brains to the nature of their romantic relationships.

Teens are different
The way that adolescents make decisions about using contraceptives differs from how adults make these choices, explained the researchers. Taking this into account, they created these guidelines to help healthcare providers effectively connect with teens. The scientists explained that the main goal behind the principles, other than encouraging teens to use contraceptives when having sex, is for healthcare providers to establish with their clients the major attributes of expertise, trustworthiness and accessibility.

"We offer these in the spirit of creating an initial skeleton of a contraceptive counseling protocol for use with adolescents that can be subjected to future empirical evaluation," said researchers James Jaccard, Ph.D., and Nicole Levitz, M.P.H.

One of these principles stresses the importance of explaining confidentiality to teens, since many of them may be concerned that if they request condoms their parents will be notified. Also, healthcare providers need to explain the four major points of contraceptives - choosing the right one for their lifestyle, using it correctly, employing the contraceptive method consistently and knowing the complications that can arise from switching between methods.

Also, the researchers stressed that it's important to not overwhelm teens when they come in for contraceptive counseling. There are more than a dozen forms of contraceptives out there that all differ in side effects, effectiveness, ability to protect against STDs, cost and a number of other factors, and getting a teen to pick one during an office visit may be too difficult for them. This is why the process of choosing contraceptives needs to somehow be simplified.

The need is strong
According to the researchers, although adolescent pregnancy rates have declined in the past two decades, they are still higher than they should be. Every year, there are nearly 750,000 pregnancies among women younger than 20 in America, and many of these are unplanned. Furthermore, individuals under the age of 20 have a high rate of STDs. According to the American Sexual Health Association, one in two sexually active persons will contract an STD by age 25. This is due to the fact that many people do not use contraceptives at all, and if they do, they may use the kind that only protect against unplanned pregnancy, not STDs.

Along with using condoms - which are the only form of contraceptives that can help reduce a person's risk of contracting an STD - young people need to utilize STD testing services. The ASHA adds that less than half of adults between the ages of 18 and 44 have ever been tested for STDs or HIV. Healthcare professionals need to not only encourage adolescents to use contraceptives, but also STD testing services. Young people also need to be told that even if they are using condoms, if they have multiple sexual partners there is no guarantee that they do not have an STD, so they still need to be tested.

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