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• 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.
• Declines in receipt of formal sex education were concentrated among young people residing in rural areas.
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.
Here we consider the role of parents, health care providers and digital media as potential sources of sexual health information for adolescents.
• 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.
• Both the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that physicians provide confidential time during adolescent primary care visits to discuss sexuality and counsel their patients about sexual behavior.
• 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.
Among sexually experienced adolescents who did not get birth control instruction from either formal sources or a parent, only 7% of females and 13% of males aged 15–19 talked with a health care provider about birth control.
• Access to the Internet is nearly universal among adolescents in the United States.
Learn how to balance school, family, friends, and relationships.
• “Formal” sexual health education is instruction that generally takes place in a formal setting, such as a school, youth center, church or other community-based location.
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• “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.