“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” takes a look at the current state of Sex Ed

In this hilarious video created by the producers of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” the host takes a critical look at the current state of sex education, and highlights the need to restructure America’s current approach to having meaningful conversations about sex.

To watch John Oliver’s report on America’s sex education system, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0jQz6jqQS0

‘Historic’ Ruling States That Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Isn’t Sex Ed

Originally posted on ThinkProgress.org
Written By Tara Culp-Ressler

In a decision that’s being hailed as “historic,” a judge in California has ruled that health classes focusing exclusively on telling students to remain abstinent until marriage fall short of the state’s comprehensive sex ed requirements.

In his opinion, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald Black concludes that, given the high rates of sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy in the U.S., medically accurate sexual health information is “an important public right.”


Black’s decision narrowly applies to about 40,000 students who attend the Clovis Unified School District. However, since his opinion represents the first-ever ruling on California’s decade-old sex education standards, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — whose legal counsel represented the plaintiffs in the suit — believes it sets an important precedent for the rest of the state.

“This is the first time that abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula have been found to be medically inaccurate,” Phyllida Burlingame, the director of reproductive justice policy at the ACLU, told the San Francisco Chronicle. She added that the ruling should send a strong message to other schools that “young people need complete, accurate health information required by law.”

A landmark law implemented in 2003 prohibits California schools from providing sex ed courses that contain medically inaccurate or biased information. It’s one of the strongest state-level sex ed requirements in the country, which vary widely across the U.S. However, previous reports commissioned by the ACLU found that the law hasn’t been implemented evenly across California, and some school districts have continued to provide inaccurate abstinence-based curricula.

The Clovis Unified School District was one of them. In 2012, a group of parents whose kids attended Clovis schools partnered with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, and the ACLU to file a lawsuit against district officials, alleging that their kids were receiving inaccurate information in their sex ed classes that could potentially put their health at risk.

The parents objected to the fact that Clovis was using a textbook that emphasized that all adults should abstain from sexual activity until marriage, and that didn’t include any information about preventing pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. They also took issue with the school district’s partnerships with outside groups — including a crisis pregnancy center that disseminates inaccurate information about the risks of abortion — to provide health instruction to students, despite the fact that those groups aren’t qualified to teach comprehensive sex ed.

Plaintiffs alleged that the district was showing students abstinence-focused videos that contained “egregiously inaccurate and biased information,” like comparing a woman who has engaged in sex to a dirty shoe, and suggesting that men are physically unable to stop themselves once they become sexually aroused. One video, entitled Never Regret The Choice, suggested that homosexuality doesn’t exist by encouraging students to adopt the mantra, “One man, one woman, one life.”

The suit was dropped in 2014 after Clovis Unified School District changed its sex ed policies to bring them more in line with California law. Black, however, ruled that the district is still responsible for paying the parents’ legal fees, since their lawsuit prompted the policy changes.

California is hardly the only state where students receive biased health information that focuses solely on abstinence. There aren’t any national requirements for comprehensive sex ed instruction in public schools, which allows 19 states to continue to require health materials to emphasize the importance of engaging in sexual activity only within marriage. In addition to failing to include information about birth control and condoms, abstinence-only programs typically tell kids that having sex will make them dirty — comparing people who have had sex to chewed up gum, used tape, dirty chocolate, and glasses of spit.

Even though a significant body of scientific research has confirmed that abstinence-only curricula are ineffective at convincing students to delay sex, and don’t prepare them to safeguard their sexual health, these programs continue to be propped up with state and federal funding. Just last month, Congress quietly appropriated $25 million in additional funding for the very same type of abstinence education programs that Black ruled violate the public right to medically accurate sex ed.

Pupils with learning difficulties are being denied their right to sex education

Originally posted on The Guardian

It’s quiet in Paul Bray’s classroom; only the occasional exclamation from a student punctuates the aura of studiousness. At one table, a teaching assistant cradles the hand of a boy in an adapted chair comfortingly, while another offers gentle encouragement to other pupils.

doubletree sex education woman picture
(Special needs pupils at Doubletrees school in Cornwall take part in a sex education class. Photograph: Ben Mostyn for the Guardian Special needs pupils at Doubletrees school in Cornwall take part in a sex education class. Photograph: Ben Mostyn for the Guardian)

Each of the two groups in the room has been given drawings of naked male and female bodies and asked to use the smaller pictures supplied to label different body parts. There are labels for knees, legs, and faces, but also for the penis, vagina, testicles and pubic hair.

Bray, the behaviour and PSHE (personal, social and health education) lead at Doubletrees special school near St Austell, in Cornwall – which caters for those with severe and complex learning difficulties – is determined that as many of the students as possible should have sex and relationships education (SRE). Under a new policy, each class is expected to get lessons every year. Two staff have been trained to deliver workshops encouraging parental involvement, and a working group has been set up to monitor implementation.

But if PSHE – within which SRE sits – remains a Cinderella subject in mainstream schools thanks to its non-statutory status, provision for children with learning disabilities seems even further away from going to go the ball. Bray recently completed a master’s dissertation at St Mark & St John University in Plymouth on the barriers to quality SRE for special education needs (SEN) pupils, and found from a survey of three schools, including his own, that almost half the teachers questioned hadn’t provided any SRE (not even the small statutory bit – the biology of reproduction that’s in national curriculum science). Two schools he approached didn’t even want to take part.

Low confidence among teachers was a consistent finding, with only a small proportion having covered SRE as part of their initial training. The picture is no less patchy nationally, according to the Family Planning Association, which has long campaigned for those with learning disabilities to get better sex education.

Attitudes and a lack of resources are the problem, Bray concluded. Just putting the words sex and education together make people twitchy, he says; throwing in children and special needs triggers embarrassment and anxiety, even anger. “We’ve got a real blind spot when it comes to people with learning disabilities and their sexuality,” he says, sitting in the headteacher’s office. “Our guys can’t opt out of puberty.” Yet there’s a widespread misconception – including among policymakers at national and local levels – that turning into a sexual being simply doesn’t apply to them.

Some parents find their child’s developing sexuality hard to accept, or are fearful about the effects of focusing on it. “I think this is true not just of parents but of some staff as well,” Bray says. “It’s almost, if you’re going to start teaching our learners about growing up, puberty and sexuality, then it will encourage inappropriate behaviour. In fact all the evidence shows that it’s completely the opposite.”

While most parents at Doubletrees have supported the school’s work, some have exercised their right to take children out of the lessons. “We have had phone calls where parents have said, ‘This is disgusting, I don’t know why you would want to teach our kids this’,” Bray says.

Much of the work is aimed at keeping students safe, and at the end of the lesson the pupils use the labels to show where people should and shouldn’t touch them without permission. Children with a learning disability are more than twice as likely to be sexually abused than others, says Mencap.

When Bray sent questionnaires to parents of 14- to 18-year-olds as part of his research, none said their child knew the correct names for private body parts, and three-quarters thought their child didn’t have the skills to reject inappropriate attention – or understood their right to say no.

“Not knowing body part names leaves most of our guys unable to explain what’s happened to them, if they’ve got concerns about bodily changes,” he says. “It’s also a child protection issue. There have been examples of students with learning disabilities [who’ve been abused] being classed as unreliable witnesses because they can’t name particular body parts.”

The onset of puberty can be terrifying if you haven’t been warned what to expect or can’t ask questions about what’s happening. Bray tells a harrowing story of a male student who spent months ripping out the pubic hair he had begun to grow. Girls who’ve no idea what their periods are when they start can go through similar agonies.

Pupils are also taught when and where it’s acceptable to touch themselves. Several UK studies have suggested those with learning disabilities are over-represented among young people accused of sexual abuse, with one in 1991 showing that 44% of those referred to a clinic for young people who sexually abused others had a learning disability, with half of those having attended a special school. About 2% of the population are thought to have learning disabilities.

“Masturbating is an issue for a lot of our guys,” Bray says. “We’re trying to move the culture away from [saying] ‘no’ to ‘not here’.” One student began masturbating in the passenger seat as he was driven by a female transport escort. “Thankfully the escort came in to speak to me and we dealt with things how we could here, and with the family,” Bray says. “If that had been on a bus, or anywhere else in public, then the consequences for that young man would have been considerably different.”

Harry Walker, policy and parliamentary manager at the Family Planning Association, says: “At the extreme end you get people banged up in a secure setting because they haven’t been given appropriate education and therefore get involved with the law because they’ve been touching themselves inappropriately in an inappropriate setting – quite simply because no one’s ever told them otherwise.”

Making SRE statutory should force schools to take it more seriously, and improve teacher training, Walker believes. Bray hopes it will improve the availability of teaching resources, especially for those with profound and multiple disabilities. His research, he says, showed that with confident teachers, parental support and resources, pupils made “huge gains” in knowledge around growing and changing, keeping safe and body parts.

In 2013 the department of health produced a framework for sexual health improvement that recognised the lack of SRE for young people with learning disabilities, and recommended more accessible information and support. Yet there seems to be no way of measuring whether that’s being done, Walker says. “It’s partly to do with localism,” he explains. “The department of health will set a national ambition and then will hand it entirely over to local authorities and say, ‘You know best, we’re not going to tell you how to do your jobs’.”

“To put it frankly, the DH framework doesn’t have teeth. It’s a big suggestion document, so that’s a real problem.”

The Family Planning Association wants the health department to rule that sexual health and development should be included in health plans for individuals with learning disabilities. “Politicians are happy to be seen to be taking action to prevent abuse of young people with learning disabilities,” Walker says. “What they won’t want to talk about is sexual health and enjoying sexuality.”

Michelle Lobb, whose son Kieran is in the lesson I observe and is severely autistic, with a learning disability, epilepsy and a sensory processing disorder, thinks the work is brilliant. “For me it’s vitally important because if anything were to happen to Kieran that wasn’t so nice, he would need to be able to communicate that to me,” she says. “If he didn’t know how to, I would have absolutely no idea.”

What does she say to those who think sexuality is not an issue for these young people? “They need to walk a very long mile in a pair of our shoes,” Lobb says. “Kids are kids; everybody’s got these hormones in their body; everybody’s going to have those same feelings.”

NGO trains teachers on comprehensive sexuality

Originally posted on *Ghana Web

The Savanna Signatures, a Tamale-based non-governmental organisation, has trained teachers from 10 schools in the Northern Region in comprehensive sexuality.

The aim of the training is to equip teachers to enable them to help educate teenagers at the junior high schools (JHS) to avoid immoral acts that would lead to teenage pregnancies.

The training is under the NGO’s teacher facilitation training programme dubbed ‘My World and My Life’ (MWML), which is being piloted in some schools to equip the beneficiary teachers with skills to carry out education on sexual behaviour.

The Executive Director of Savanna Signatures, Mr Stephen Agbenyo, speaking at the opening of the one-week programme, advised participants to not hide issues of reproductive sexual health from pupils, saying: “The more we don’t tell them the truth about sex, the more they want to explore.”

He said the NGO would continue to embark on projects and programmes that would help improve the welfare and smooth growth of younger persons.

The MWML is a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum developed for pupils from 10-14 years as well as a 14-lesson curriculum comprising sexuality, human feelings and body changes, sexually transmitted infections prevention methods and future plans.

The programme is being piloted in four schools in the Tamale Metropolis and five in the East Mamprusi District where some 18 teachers are being trained by some officials from the Ghana Health Service and the Ghana Education Service so as to make the programme effective.

The Project Manager of Savanna Signatures, Ms Alhassan Fousia Tuah, said the training of the teachers had become necessary because they were in direct contact with the children all the time.

She said though the teachers were trained they needed to receive capacity building in facilitating lessons in their schools in line with the NGO’s aims and objectives to ensure that the programme succeeds.

Madam Sanderijn Van Der Doef, a master trainer of the Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights from the office of Rutgers WPF in the Netherlands talked about the importance of sex education among the youth especially those at the JHS who were sexually active.

Mr Abu Musah, Programmes Co-ordinator of ASEG, a partner NGO of the project, lauded the project, which is being adapted from Uganda, and told the participants of the enormous benefits that would be derived directly and indirectly from the MWML.

Sex Reassignment Surgery at 74: Medicare Win Opens Door for Transgender Seniors

Originally posted on *NBC News
Written by Miranda Leitsinger

CHICAGO — Denee Mallon marveled at the view of Lake Michigan from her hospital bed in the Windy City, where she had just made history: the then 74-year-old transgender woman underwent a milestone sex reassignment surgery she’d sought for decades. “Here I am, finally, after all these years,” she said. “It happened.”

Her operation will be one of the first paid for by Medicare after she won a challenge in May to end the government insurance program’s ban on covering such procedures for transgender individuals. Mallon’s victory opened the door for other seniors to access this care and may influence whether more insurers – private and public – will cover them. LGBT advocates also hailed her case as another step forward to securing equal rights for transgender people.

“I feel congruent, like I’m finally one complete human being where my body matches my innermost feelings, my psyche,” said Mallon, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, two days after undergoing sex reassignment surgery in mid-October. “I feel complete.”

The Medicare ban was imposed in 1989, stemming from earlier information years before that found there was a “lack of well controlled, long-term studies of the safety and effectiveness of the surgical procedures and attendant therapies.” It deemed such treatment “experimental” and noted a “high rate of serious complications.”

But since then, research has found that sex reassignment surgery is a proven therapy for some individuals suffering from gender dysphoria, with decades-long studies and clinical case reports showing positive results, experts say. There is “agreement among professionals in the field that this is effective treatment,” said Jamison Green, president of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association are among the professional medical groups that have in the last decade endorsed sex reassignment surgery, which can include a number of procedures such as a complete hysterectomy, bilateral mastectomy and genital reconstruction.

Yet no one challenged the Medicare prohibition until Mallon did.

Jim Seida / NBC News
Denee Mallon pumps gas into her Ford Mustang in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “They say until you have the surgery you don’t realize what effect it has on your psyche and on your whole being something almost magical occurs. I think, ‘Yeah something goes on.’ I’m going to find out really soon,” says Mallon.

Long road home

Mallon said she first became aware of her gender identity when she was a child in the 1940s. “People would ask, ‘How is your little girl today,’ and that was me,” she said. “Well, it’s taken me all these years and detours, potholes and whatnot to finally be where I am right now.”

For Mallon, life – work, five kids and three marriages – had gotten in the way of having sex reassignment surgery. When she could afford it in the late 1970s and early 1980s, she couldn’t get her doctors to approve it. They balked, she said, because she was having sex with women – which they felt was inconsistent with her needing the operation. By the time she got the okay in the late 1980s, she could no longer afford it.

“I’ve tried to be the kind of man that society wanted and my feminine self just kept creeping up.”

“I lived what transsexuals call the stealth life, didn’t disclose the fact that I was originally male,” said Mallon, who prior to surgery had taken hormones as part of her transition. “And in 2012, I came out of stealth mode and started being more of an activist.”

Her decision to take on Medicare came after she was denied sex reassignment surgery by her secondary private insurer and then the government insurance program. Male-to-female transitions can run about $25,000; for female-to-male transitions it’s around $100,000. Such costs are prohibitively expensive for many on Medicare. Mallon, for example, lives on $650 a month in Social Security income and shares a trailer with another transgender woman.

Mallon’s challenge of what is known as Medicare’s national coverage determination took about 18 months. Medicare never defended its policy before a U.S. health and human services (HHS) board tasked with hearing the challenge, nor did it question the new evidence, which included medical studies, provided by several experts in this field as part of the review.

The HHS board, in its decision, said it was comfortable with that evidence and thus didn’t feel it was necessary to independently consult with scientific or clinical experts on it.

“The new evidence indicates that transsexual surgery is an effective treatment option in appropriate cases,” the board said.

Medicare didn’t respond to NBC’s questions about why it didn’t defend the former policy. Data for reimbursement requests for sex reassignment surgery since the change wasn’t yet available, Medicare said, but a spokesman noted that the decision on whether to cover the procedures was now up to the program’s contractors. (The HHS board said its determination doesn’t bar Medicare or its contractors from denying individual claims for payment for others reasons allowed by the law.)

‘There’s no escaping it’

Transgender people and the issues they face are being discussed and embraced more openly than at any other time in history, with television shows featuring transgender characters — like “Transparent” and “Orange is the New Black” — helping to bring more awareness.

But seniors, like Mallon, grew up during a time when transgender issues were invisible at best. Mallon had grappled for decades with her gender identity: She had tried, as she said, to “man up” by joining the high school football team, the Army and then a police force. She lost marriages and family ties as she haltingly made her transition. She struggled and lacked confidence in jobs where she presented herself as a man.

“I have a difficult time relating to somebody what it feels like to be me. One of the obvious things people will say is, ‘It’s a lifestyle choice. You’ve made this choice.’ Well, it’s far deeper than that. It’s so a part of my basic psyche, there’s no escaping it,” she said. “I’ve tried to be the kind of man that society wanted and my feminine self just kept creeping up.”

Mallon, now 75, began living full time as a woman when she turned 40, taking fashion merchandising courses with 20-somethings at a vocational school in Albuquerque to learn how to walk and talk like the woman she knew herself to be. She’d known since she was about 12 that she needed to have sex reassignment surgery after news broke in 1952 that Christine Jorgensen, a transgender New Yorker, had done it in Europe.

“I was delivering the morning paper at the time and eagerly anticipated each article. That’s when I knew that I could actually have the surgery and become a woman,” Mallon said. “She’d get on TV shows and people would just eagerly watch the show to catch a glimpse of her because that was so novel back then. He was this Army veteran, now a woman, and looking quite good.”

gtws_trans2 Jim Seida / NBC News
Denee Mallon holds a photo of herself from 1957, when she was known as Dennis Mallon, a U.S. Army private in basic training is at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Of Mallon’s five children, she said, her eldest fully accepts her gender identity and is proud of her for leading the Medicare fight.

“I’m so sad it took so long,” Kelly Mallon-Salter said of Denee’s surgery, getting emotional. “But I’m so happy that she’s helping others to have it.”

Coverage expands in private sector

The Medicare decision comes as the number of private insurance companies offering transition-related coverage has surged in recent years. Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBT equality, said about 34 percent of the Fortune 500 companies today — up from 10 percent in 2009 — offer transgender-inclusive health care benefits, including surgical. Many employers have started to address coverage for transgender individuals, and most have experienced little to no premium increases as a result, HRC said in its annual Corporate Equality Index.

Five states’ Medicaid programs — California, Massachusetts, Vermont, the District of Columbia and Oregon — cover transgender health services, including sex reassignment surgery, in their plans for lower-income and disabled people. Ten states have banned health insurance discrimination against transgender people (the five listed above plus Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Washington, and most recently, New York).

The hope, transgender advocates say, is that the Medicare decision will encourage more Medicaid programs and private insurers to offer coverage.

“That’s going to have a ripple effect, we believe, across other third-party payers,” said Dr. Loren Schechter, a plastic surgeon who performed Mallon’s surgery at Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “And the important recognition is that this surgery is not cosmetic, it’s not an individual’s lifestyle choice.”

“It was extreme anxiety that there was something totally wrong and I wasn’t able to fix it. And if I’m doomed to live this horrible life with these feelings, then it’s not worth living.”

Having sex-reassignment surgery for some individuals suffering from gender dysphoria is medically necessary, said Green of WPATH. Being unable to access such care can create stress, depression, anxiety, heart conditions, disorders or worse. Data is limited on suicide among transgender individuals, though 41 percent of respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey in 2011 said they’d attempted to take their life. “There is nothing more meaningful than to be able to be at home in your body,” Green said.

Veronica Shema, a 65-year-old transgender woman living in Tucson, Arizona, said she has attempted suicide and has been on suicide watch four times. She began to transition 10 years ago.

“I could not take it anymore,” she said. “It was extreme anxiety that there was something totally wrong and I wasn’t able to fix it. And if I’m doomed to live this horrible life with these feelings, then it’s not worth living.”

Shema met with Schechter in November to plan her sex reassignment surgery. She said she’d been turned down by private insurance and was waiting on Medicare, calling it her “last hope.”

“I’m hitting an end-of-life crisis,” she said. “I can’t continue living like this another 10, 15 years. Once I get the gender marker (changed) on my birth certificate, I will feel like I would have accomplished my task. And I’m not there. It’s hard to live with.”

Obstacles remain

Despite the Medicare win, there are still many obstacles ahead: the surgery’s expense combined with typically low Medicare reimbursement rates (for any procedure) may discourage the few surgeons working in this area to accept patients with government insurance.

Dr. Marci Bowers, a pelvic and gynecologic surgeon who has performed more than 3,000 sex reassignment-related surgeries, said she has been getting “scores” of inquiries every week from Medicare patients since the decision. Although she has operated on some of them, she doesn’t think she’ll be able to accept more patients through the government insurer. The costs of this specialty are high, she said, and doctors must accept whatever the insurer reimburses as payment in full. They can’t seek additional payment from patients.

“It’s actually having an unintended harmful effect on patients’ access to care,” she said. “There are an overwhelming number of patients out there. And potentially, if they were all to come in, they would overwhelm our ability to care for them,” she added. “If the reimbursement is paltry, as we are fearful it will be, it’s going to be very difficult to continue to take any kind of Medicare payments. The surgery is just too difficult, too risky, too complicated.”

But the Medicare change could encourage university medical programs to add this surgical expertise to their curriculum, which may increase the number of qualified surgeons, in turn leading to more competition and better access to care, said Bowers. There is currently no approved training program for sex reassignment surgeons in the U.S. Universities also can afford to sometimes take lower payments on treatments — such as from Medicare — with the tradeoff being that surgeries happen at teaching hospitals, she added.

Despite the ongoing challenges, Mallon said now that the door has opened, other transgender seniors who need sex reassignment surgery shouldn’t hesitate. As she savored her new beginning, Mallon mused about all the fun things she looked forward to: swimming comfortably in a pool and going on some dates.

“I’m just a normal everyday woman who is bound to get into trouble,” she said. “I’m so flirtatious, it’s ridiculous.”

Truancy, failing tests linked to more sex, less condom use in teenage girls

Originally published on *Medical News Today

What do skipping school, failing tests and engaging in risky sexual behavior have in common? Lots, according to Indiana University researchers who combed through 80,000 diary entries written by 14- to 17-year-old girls.

Although the findings are intuitive, this is the first study to examine the day-to-day relationship between teenage girls’ reports about school-related events, how they felt and the sexual behaviors they participated in. Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the findings are based on a 10-year study of the development of 387 teenage girls’ romantic/sexual relationships and sexual behavior. During the study, the teens contributed daily reports of their activities and mood.

“This study demonstrates that young women’s weekday reports of skipping school and failing a test were significantly linked to more frequent vaginal sex, less frequent condom use and different sexual emotions, on that same day,” said lead author Devon J. Hensel, Ph.D., said.

Prior studies have shown that academic success is linked to lower sexual risk, but researchers have relied on retrospective information, she said.

“The strength of using multiple daily reports is that allows us a more ecologically valid, or ‘real world,’ look at how young women’s academic and romantic behaviors are linked from one day to the next. Rather than relying on reports about what happened in the past, we have a unique view of events as they unfold,” said Dr. Hensel, who is an assistant research professor of pediatrics in the Section of Adolescent Medicine at the IU School of Medicine, and an assistant professor of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

“Romantic relationships become a primary social focus during adolescence, and school provides a venue where young women meet and interact with their partners,” Dr. Hensel said. “Many of the same skills underlying academic outcomes — such as communication, emotional awareness and behavior regulation — are also linked to what happens in young women’s relationships. Using this idea, we hypothesized that what happened academically during a given school day would impact how an adolescent felt about her romantic partner, and the behaviors she engaged in with that partner.”

Academic behaviors included skipping school and failing a test; sexual behaviors were vaginal sex and condom use; and emotions involved positive mood, negative mood, feeling in love, sexual interest, partner support and partner negativity.

What she and co-author Brandon H. Sorge, M.S., found is that vaginal sex was more frequent (13.5 percent vs. 5.4 percent) and condom use was less frequent (13.8 percent vs. 33.1 percent) on weekdays when school was skipped as compared to weekdays when school was attended. However, incidents of vaginal sex did not vary if the diary author failed or did not fail a test (6.4 percent vs. 5.8 percent); but when sex did occur, condom use was less frequent when she failed a test (6.9 percent) compared to when she did not (27.1 percent).

Emotionally, young women reported significantly higher levels of negative mood, sexual interest and feeling in love, and lower levels of positive mood, on weekdays when they skipped school or failed a test, as compared to weekdays when neither of these events occurred. Moreover, skipping school was associated with significantly higher levels of partner support.

“Our findings raise the possibility that the emotional and behavioral experiences in young women’s romantic and sexual relationships may impact her reaction to academic events, particularly if an event is more salient to her or to her partner. For example, condom use might be lower after failing a test if a young woman feels supported and loved by her partner. Conversely, if a boyfriend pressures a young woman to skip school, that same pressure could influence her to eschew condom use when sex occurs,” Dr. Hensel summarized. “Our data reflect the importance of considering how the close links between different areas in an adolescent’s life can impact her overall health and well-being.”

Teen sex and LGBT issues: It’s what doctors say and how they say it

Originally posted on *Medical News Today

When doctors speak to teens about sex and LGBT issues, only about 3 percent of them are doing so in a way that encourages LGBT teens to discuss their sexuality, and Purdue University researchers say other doctors can learn from these conversations.


“Physicians are making their best efforts, but they are missing opportunities to create safe environments for teenagers to discuss sexuality and their health,” said lead investigator Stewart C. Alexander, an associate professor of consumer science who focuses on health communication. What the doctor asks or brings up about sexuality sets the tone, and gay and lesbian youth are very good about reading adults to determine who is safe to confide in. They ask themselves, ‘Can I disclose this information to this adult?'”

Physicians are encouraged to discus teenage sexuality during wellness visits per the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations. But the researchers said these conversations are more than a simple phrase and they need to consider the whole conversation – thus physicians can undo any good they do if they don’t remain inclusive.

“Open, inclusive conversations can help youths realize there is no threat, and this can be a great start for building trust with the physician who is someone they are likely to see year after year,” said Cleveland Shields, an associate professor of human development and family studies and co-investigator. “These adolescents, especially the younger ones, may not have established a sexual identity, their sexuality is in flux, or they may be romantically involved with someone of the same gender but not identify themselves as gay or lesbian.”

The researchers looked at patterns in physicians’ conversations about sex when speaking to patients ages 12-17. The findings are published in LGBT Health. The research was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the data was collected at 11 clinics in the Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina, area as part of the Duke Teen CHAT project. The analysis is based on recorded conversations between 49 physicians and 293 adolescents during annual wellness checks. Of all the visits that contained sexuality talk, physicians were able to maintain open and inclusive talk only 3 percent of the time.

“The physicians I know want to do a good job, so we’re trying to identify best practices, and hopefully these examples will provide them additional context for strengthening these conversations,” said Shields, who used to train family doctors in communication methods.

These conversation methods have not been tested clinically, but here are examples of inclusive conversation tactics from the study:

  • To start an inclusive conversation, focus on attraction: “I know some teenagers who are attracted to girls. I know some teenagers who are attracted to boys, and I know some who are attracted to both. Have you started to think about these things?” or “Usually girls your age start to become interested in boys or other girls or both, have you started to become interested in others?”
  • To start an inclusive conversation, ask about friends: “Have any of your friends started dating? Any boyfriends or girlfriends or both?” or “Do you know if your friends started to have sex yet?” Physicians used this approach to then turn to the teenager’s dating and sexual behavior by always suggesting gender-neutral terms such as “anybody,” “someone” or “partners.”

The researchers say that maintaining an inclusive conversation can be challenging at first, but when done inclusively doctors can reinforce the notion of multiple attractions and identities and emphasize non-judgment. For example, “People like different people” or “I see teens of all types and I tell them the same thing ‘be yourself.'” One physician stated, “I want you to know that I am here for you and regardless of who you are or become interested in, I want to be sure I can provide you the proper care.”

Another technique to maintain inclusive conversations is leaving the door open for future conversations, such as, “If things change, or if along the way you decide something else is right for you, I want you to let me know.”

“The idea of setting the tone for the years to come is very important,” Alexander said. “This may not be the big conversation for the 12-year-olds – that may take place in four years – but the tone needs to be set at age 12 so that when the time comes the child is comfortable and knows the doctor is a safe contact. This approach also reinforces the adolescent as an emerging adult. We want to provide them with autonomy so they can be a consumer of their own health.”

Shields and Alexander collaborated with J. Dennis Fortenberry from the Indiana University School of Medicine and Kathryn I. Pollak and Truls Ostbye from Duke University and Terrill Bravender from University of Michigan.

Most patients don’t get counseling about sex after heart attack

Originally posted on *Medical News Today

Most patients don’t receive counseling about resuming sexual activity after having a heart attack, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Researchers interviewed 3,501 heart attack patients in 127 hospitals and one month later by telephone in August 2008-January 2012 in the United States and Spain. The patients’ median age was 48 years and two-thirds were female.

One month after their heart attacks, only 12 percent of women and 19 percent of men reported they received sexual counseling from their healthcare provider – though most reported they were sexually active within the year before their heart attack.

“Even with life-threatening illness, people value their sexual function and believe it is appropriate for healthcare providers to raise the issue of resuming sexual activity,” said Stacy Tessler Lindau, M.D., M.A.P.P., study lead author, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and geriatric medicine and director of the Program in Integrative Sexual Medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

In rare instances when healthcare providers counseled about sexual activity, they often recommended restrictions more conservative than medical guidelines. For example, those patients given restrictions more most often told to limit sex (35 percent), take a more passive role (26 percent), and/or keep their heart rate down (23 percent).

“Healthcare providers should let their patients know that for most it is OK to resume physical activity, including sexual activity, and to return to work,” Lindau said. “They can tell their patients to stop the activity and notify them if they experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other concerning symptoms. If the healthcare provider doesn’t raise the issues, I encourage patients to ask outright: ‘Is it OK for me to resume sexual activity? When? Is there anything I should look out for?'”

In the United States and worldwide, heart disease is the leading cause of death. About 720,000 people have a heart attack in the United States each year and about 20 percent are 18-55 years old.

In 2013, the American Heart Association published a scientific statement about counseling patients with cardiovascular disease about sexual activity. The statement concluded that sexual counseling should be tailored to the individual needs and concerns of cardiovascular patients and their partners/spouses

“When the topic of sexual function is left out of counseling, patients perceive that it’s not relevant to their medical condition, or that they are alone in the problems they have resuming normal sexual activity,” Lindau said.

I Forgot to Take My Birth Control; What Should I Do?

Originally posted on *PopSugar
Written by Tara Block

One of the complaints we hear from women about the birth control pill is that they have a hard time remembering to take it every day. So what happens if you forget? Being even 12 hours late taking your birth control pill could increase your chances of getting pregnant. If you miss any of the first 21 pills in your pack, you need to use a backup method of birth control (condoms) until you have taken seven consecutive days of pills.


  • If you miss one pill: Take it as soon as you remember. Take your next pill at the regular time.
  • If you realize when taking your pill that you skipped one: Take the pill you skipped and the new one together. It’s OK to take two pills at once.
  • If you miss two pills: Take two pills each day for the next two days, and then go back to one pill each day at your usual time. You could get pregnant if you have unprotected sex for the next seven days, so make sure to use a backup method.
  • If you forget to take one pill during the third week of your pill pack: Finish the pills for that week, skip the last week (inactive pills), and begin a new pack. Understand that you probably won’t have another period until the fourth week of this new pill pack. Use a backup method of birth control until you have taken seven consecutive days of pills.
  • If you forget three or more pills: Call your doctor for advice. She may suggest to take one pill daily until Sunday and then start a new pack, or to discard the rest of the pill pack and start over with a new pack that same day. Be sure to use a backup method of birth control each time you have sex because you are no longer protected against pregnancy. After you’ve had seven days of pills, then you are protected against pregnancy.

Advice: It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor if you have any questions. If you think there could be a chance that you are pregnant (and you don’t want to be), emergency contraception (Plan B) is always an option. And as of last week, the morning-after pill is now available over the counter without a prescription for all ages.

HPV vaccination not linked with risky sexual behavior among teenage girls

Originally posted on *Medical News Today
Written by

Opposing concerns over increased promiscuity following HPV vaccination, a new large study published in CMAJ finds that the introduction of the routine HPV vaccination has not affected the sexual behavior of teenage girls.


More than 40 HPVs can be easily spread through direct skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal and oral sex.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that is spread through sexual contact. Often, HPV is not symptomatic, and people are unaware that they have contracted the virus.

There are approximately 40 types of genital HPV. Some types can cause cervical cancer in women and can also cause other types of cancer in both men and women. Other strains can cause genital warts in both sexes. The HPV vaccine works by preventing the most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts. It is given as a three-dose vaccine.

In 2006, 49 countries licensed Gardasil, a quadrivalent HPV vaccine designed to protect against four types of HPV (6, 11, 16, 18) that cause 70% of cases of cervical cancer and most cases of anogenital warts. By 2012, the vaccine had been approved in almost 100 countries, many of which also implemented nationwide HPV vaccination programs aimed at immunizing young girls before the onset of sexual activity.

The large-scale immunization programs have been met with approval and controversy regarding the unanswered questions about the real-world effects of the vaccine.

A major topic of public debate has been the possibility that HPV vaccination might give women and girls a false sense of protection against all sexually transmitted infections and that this false sense of protection might lead them to engage in more risky sexual behaviors. Increases in risky behaviors, such as heightened promiscuity and neglecting condom use, could have important clinical consequences, including increased risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

This population-based retrospective cohort study aimed to assess the effect of HPV vaccination on clinical indicators of sexual behavior among adolescent girls based in Ontario, Canada.

The researchers identified a population of 128,712 girls eligible for Ontario’s grade 8 HPV vaccination program in the first 2 years it was offered – 2007/2008 and 2008/2009. These eligible girls were compared with girls in grade 8 from 2 years before the vaccination program began, who were ineligible for publicly funded, school-based HPV vaccination – 2005/2006 and 2006/2007.

The cohort members were followed for an average of 4.5 years, and data was collected on indicators of sexual behavior such as pregnancy and non-HPV-related sexually transmitted infections in grades 10-12.

Vaccination, program eligibility did not increase pregnancy or non-HPV-related STIs

The results of the study highlighted 6% of cohort members with indicators of sexual behavior between September 1st of grade 10 and March 31st of grade 12:

  • 10,187 pregnancies
  • 6,259 with a non-HPV-related sexually transmitted infection.

Only 51% of eligible girls received all three doses of the HPV vaccine in grades 8 and 9. Girls born during the first quarter of each year, January-March, were consistently at a higher risk of outcomes than those born later in the year.

The authors observed no statistically significant increase in the risk of indicators of sexual behavior in relation to HPV vaccination.

Dr. Leah Smith, from the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at McGill University in Montréal, Canada, and Dr. Linda Lévesque, from the Department of Public Health Sciences at Queen’s University in Ontario, say the “findings suggest that fears of increased risky sexual behavior following HPV vaccination are unwarranted and should not be a barrier to vaccinating at a young age.” They continue:

“Neither HPV vaccination nor program eligibility increased the risk of pregnancy and non-HPV-related sexually transmitted infections among females aged 14-17 years.”

Alleged to be the largest study on the association between HPV vaccination and proxies of sexual behavior, this study reports similar results to a US study on the topic involving 1,398 teenage girls.

“The results of this study can be used by physicians, public health providers and policy-makers to address public and parental concerns about HPV vaccination and promiscuity,” the authors conclude.

Medical News Today reported in July that vaccine coverage among US adolescents remains “unacceptably low.” It was estimated that in 2013, only 57% of girls and 35% of boys aged 13-17 years received one or more doses of the HPV vaccine.