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• Young women were more likely than young men to talk with their parents about each of these sexual health topics except how to use a condom, which was more commonly discussed among males (45%) than among females (36%).
• Despite declines in adolescents’ receipt of formal sex education between 2006–20–2013, the share of adolescents who had talked with parents about most sex education topics did not change.
• Within each state, relatively few high schools offered instruction on HIV, STDs or pregnancy prevention specifically relevant to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth in 2014; the proportion ranged from 11% in South Dakota to 56% in Vermont.
Adolescents may receive information about sexual health topics from a range of sources beyond formal instruction.
• In 2011–2013, more than 80% of adolescents aged 15–19 had received formal instruction about STDs, HIV and AIDS or how to say no to sex.
In contrast, only 55% of young men and 60% of young women had received formal instruction about methods of birth control.
• “Abstinence education” programs that promote abstinence-only-until-marriage—now termed “sexual risk avoidance” by proponents—have been described as “scientifically and ethically problematic.” They systematically ignore or stigmatize many young people and do not meet their health needs.
• Proponents of “sexual risk avoidance” programs have appropriated the terms “medically accurate” and “evidence-based,” though experts in the field agree that such programs are neither complete in their medical accuracy nor based on the widely accepted body of scientific evidence.
• In 2011–2013, 70% of males and 78% of females aged 15–19 reported having talked with a parent about at least one of six sex education topics: how to say no to sex, methods of birth control, STDs, where to get birth control, how to prevent HIV infection and how to use a condom.For example, the share of rural adolescents who had received instruction about birth control declined from 71% to 48% among females, and from 59% to 45% among males.• Only about half of adolescents (57% of females and 43% of males) received formal instruction about contraception before they first had sex; about four in ten (46% of females and 31% of males) received instruction about where to get birth control.• As of 2015, fewer than six percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students aged 13–21 reported that their health classes had included positive representations of LGBT-related topics.• Leading public health and medical professional organizations—including the American Medical Association; the American Academy of Pediatrics; the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; the American Public Health Association; the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine); the American School Health Association and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine—support comprehensive sex education.
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Digital media offer opportunities for youth to confidentially search for information on sensitive topics, and thus are a likely source of sexual health information for young people.