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Gaps Found in Sex Knowledge

Gaps Found in Sex Knowledge

A new survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy finds that about half of sexually active young people do not regularly use contraception, despite believing that pregnancy should be planned.

"What is surprising is just how wide the gap is between young single adults' intentions and behavior on this very important issue," NCPTUP's Bill Albert says of the survey of 1,800 people ages 18 to 29.

Twenty-nine percent of female and 42% of male respondents said it is at least slightly likely they will have unprotected sex within the next three months, while 17 and 19%, respectively, said it is quite or extremely likely.

The survey also found gaps in knowledge about contraception and safe sex. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed acknowledged an insufficient understanding of birth control pills, and 30% had little or erroneous knowledge about condoms. For example, 28% of men incorrectly believed they would get extra protection from wearing two condoms at once, a practice that can cause condom breakage. Eighteen percent of men wrongly believed that having sex while standing reduces a woman's chance of pregnancy.

Roughly one in five participants reported having had no sex education in school. While most people have heard of birth control pills and condoms, they have never been taught how to use or access them, suggested Yolanda Wimberly, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Morehouse School of Medicine and an adolescent-medicine specialist at Atlanta's Grady Health Systems.

NCPTUP's survey says the need for adult sex education is critical. Colleges should provide sex education curricula, and such programs also should be available in workplaces, job training sites, and the military. In addition, health care providers must ensure that young people know all their options for family planning, NCPTUP says.

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