Sexual Health Guidelines, Services Needed for Teen Boys, Researchers Say

Sexual health guidelines and essential services on the healthcare needs of teen boys is traditionally overlooked and should be received at least once a year, according to two newly published reports by investigators at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, The Johns Hopkins University Gazette reports.

The first report, published in the December issue of Pediatrics, notes that there is an absence of guidelines on what sexual health tests and screening procedures teen boys should get and how often.

“Many clinicians currently forgo delivering some or many of these services because of limited time during visits, lack of evidence on the benefit of doing so and absence of guidelines on how to go about it,” lead author Arik Marcell, a teen health expert at Johns Hopkins, said, according to The JHU Gazette.

Marcell also told the Gazette that primary-care pediatricians are three times more likely to take a sexual history from girls than from boys, and twice as likely to discuss with girls as with boys the importance of using a condom despite past research which shows that 75 percent of U.S. teen boys report having a sexual encounter by the time they are 18, have more sexual partners than girls, and have sex at an earlier age than girls.

Additionally, past research shows that many teen boys engage in risky sexual behaviors, including having sex while drunk or high (26 percent), engaging in unprotected sex (nearly 30 percent), and having sex with an HIV-infected person or a prostitute (6 percent), Marcell and colleagues noted. The second report, published online Dec. 5 in the Journal of Adolescent Health, identifies core sexual and reproductive services that clinicians say every teen boy should receive during annual physical exams. The report recommends getting a physical that includes a genital exam to assess pubertal growth and screening for inherited disorders of sexual differentiation, such as Klinefelter syndrome and fragile X syndrome, as well as for nonsexually transmitted diseases that can affect sexual function and reproduction. The report also recommends screening and counseling for STDs, including HIV testing to boys age 13 and older, mental health and physical/sexual/substance abuse screening, and discussing the male role in pregnancy prevention, including condom use and abstinence. Additionally, the report recommends that doctors assess the teen’s relationship with friends, partners and parents, and discuss transition into adulthood, sexual identity, sexual orientation and relevant risk factors.
“It is critical that we, as clinicians, find ways to reach these patients outside of routine visits and devise ways to deliver some of these services even when they come to us for specific illness or problems unrelated to sexual health,” Marcell said, according to the Gazette. “Our study indicates that clinicians who specialize in male teen health agree on the services they deem essential for their patients,” Marcell said, according to the Gazette. “What we need now is a set of uniform guidelines to help all pediatricians do the same.”
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