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Sex Health and Adolescent Males

Jan 05, 2012

It’s important for doctors to regularly address sexual and reproductive health with teenage boys, according to two recent reports.

The first report, published in the December 2011 issue of Pediatrics, notes that teenage girls are more likely to receive sexual and reproductive healthcare services than boys. However, these issues are just as important for teenage boys, the authors say.

The report provides background on “knowledge areas” that clinicians should be familiar with when treating teenage boys. These include puberty, sexual development, function, and dysfunction, sexuality, masturbation and ejaculation, and the consequences of sexual behavior. Healthcare providers should also be knowledgeable about dating violence and unwanted sex, as well as ways to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV.

Discussions of sexuality should be age-appropriate and sensitive to a young man’s orientation, even if he is still questioning whether he is attracted to males or females.

The authors offer tips on how to approach sexual healthcare with teenage boys, including those who are reluctant to discuss sex or have their genitals examined. Outside resources that may help clinicians, patients, and parents are also provided.

Clinicians should be able to handle a variety of sexual health-related tasks, such as taking sexual histories, performing physical exams and lab tests, diagnosing common STIs, and giving vaccines. They should also be able to provide guidance based on known risk factors or information revealed by the patient, like drug or alcohol use.

“Health care providers, and pediatricians in particular, are in the best position to deliver high-quality sexual/reproductive health care services to male adolescents and should view even follow-up, acute care, and immunization visits as opportunities to address these health issues,” the authors state.

A second report published in the December 5, 2011 online edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health focuses on which sexual and reproductive health services teenage boys should receive, according to a survey of primary care clinicians that specialize in male health.

Most clinicians agreed that monitoring sexual development in puberty, discussing ways to prevent pregnancy, and testing/counseling for STIs were important areas to address with patients. They also felt that looking for signs of substance abuse, mental health problems, and physical/sexual abuse were important.

The study authors suggest that their data could be useful for developing clinical guidelines and for training healthcare providers on common sexual health issues for male adolescents.