TEEN TRIBUNE – In 2011, the Philippines topped the ASEAN countries in teenage pregnancy cases. Sexual health issues are something that should be talked about. Serious issues come to the surface as adolescents’ health and life are at risk.
Adolescence is the time where one masters his/her own sexuality. An adolescent needs to develop a positive feeling, manage sexual arousal and desire, and develop a responsible decision making. The younger one had first sexual intercourse, the more likely that it is forced; the more negative effects will follow which includes unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. They are also less likely to use contraception, and more likely to have sexual partners and engage in more risky sexual behavior.
Adressing those issues, the Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Society of the Philippines (PAGSPHIL) discussed the importance of communication of sexual health issues to adolescents or teens. Dr. Erlinda Cuisia-Cruz mentioned some of the most useful ways to communicate sexual issues to teens.
Few adolescents receive preparation for their sexual lives. Some information known to teens came from media which contains explicit sexual messages which are too often to be unrealistic, inaccurate, and misleading.
With regards to media, according to 2013 Teen Young Adults Fertility Survey, more than half of the Filipino adolescents have watched pornographic videos. In addition, according to 2013 YAP Survey, 1 in 100 Filipino youth have recorded himself or herself having sex, 4 in 100 had sex with somebody they met online or through text messaging, and 6 in 100 have already engaged in phone sex.
Another statistics says that 32% or 1 in 3 Filipino youth has engaged in premarital sex (YAFS, 2013). This percentage may be little but this already rose from 23% last 2002 and also from 17% to 18% last 1994. These are some reasons why sexual health should be talked about to teens. They are actually having sex. In effect, more health risks are evident. Youth accounts for more than 60% of reported STIs worldwide.
These are really alarming facts. Before taking actions, SCREENING is needed for confirmation. Some ways are through written forms and computer-assisted risk assessment provided by the pediatrician or healthcare provider. Also, one mnemonics is SAFETEENS which stands for screening the Sexuality, Accidents, Abuse, Firearms, Emotions, Toxins, Environment, Exercise, Nutrition, and Shocks. Most commonly used in clinics is the HEADSSSS Interview. It stands for Home, Education, Activities and peers, Drugs, Sexuality, Suicide, Safety, and Strength/Spirituality.
Next step is MANAGEMENT. It aims to promote responsible sexual behaviors through abstinence. It is best to counsel patients who aren’t yet sexually active to postpone initiation of intercourse. Coach them in their ability to resist unwanted intercourse and make them focus in their dreams and career goals. Abstinence is even more effective with sex education and by teaching proper decision making. Education is prevention. Also, teach contraceptive techniques or services for the sexually experienced. Access to healthcare and information is also important to prevent sexual health risks.
Another is to COUNSEL PARENTS to provide appropriate supervision to the teens. Parents should monitor their adolescents’ social and recreational activities and to restrict sexual activity. Starting off at 2 to 3 years old, child is taught the good and bad touch. The private parts are not to be touched by anyone but mom or the caregiver. By 5 years old, the parts are explained and also, privacy and personal hygiene are taught. Around 6 to 7 years old, wrong information from the many sources should be corrected. Teach according to the family’s values and beliefs. Prepare the child with pubertal changes at 8 or 9 years old. Openness to the child’s feelings of attraction and other issues is needed. By 12 or during adolescence, discuss about the questions of confusions the child might have.
It’s also important that parents use appropriate language. Work on building the self-esteem. Teens who are feeling loved at home do not give in to pressure from peers just to say that they belong. It is important to teach them that with privilege comes responsibility and in every decision comes a consequence.
In addition, safety is of utmost importance. Adolescents should be protected from verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. Empowerment is to be imparted. They should learn to speak up or voice out. Open communication between parents and children helps develop and enhance self confidence and the skills needed to make healthy sexual decisions in life.
Issues regarding the sexual health of adolescents matters. Everyone should take part in bringing the solution to the problem.
– Christopher Valentin, Medical Observer