Asia Pacific youths need to talk about sex: survey

Wed Sep 30, 2009 2:14am EDT
 
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SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Young people in the Asia Pacific region need to get over taboos on talking about sex, with a survey showing most don't know much about contraception while a third do not discuss it with their partner.

The survey of more than 1,200 people teenagers and twenty-somethings in six countries across the region showed nearly two-thirds -- or 64 percent -- were unfamiliar with the types of contraception available, or confused by the choice, putting them at risk of unplanned pregnancies and diseases such as HIV.

This is higher than the global average, where only half of the respondents to the "Talking Sex and Contraception" survey, funded by pharmaceutical firm Bayer Schering Pharma, said they were unaware about their contraceptive choices.

"There's still a huge taboo factor in Asia when it comes to sex," Denise Keller, a TV presenter well known across Asia, told reporters during an event to promote safe sex.

"We have to understand that kids have raging hormones and you can't just say no, don't do it. We need to talk more about it, or else we'll have many more unwanted pregnancies and all sorts of diseases."

The survey, which involved 15- to 21-year-olds, showed that while the majority of youth felt their partner was the person they could talk to about contraception, nearly 40 percent didn't do so before having sex for the first time because if felt "awkward."

The average age youth in Asia Pacific were having sex was 17 years, and nearly half of those have already had unprotected sex, the survey showed, while over a third believed clinically unreliable contraceptive methods, such as withdrawal, were effective in protecting them.

"The results of the survey are alarming," said Ary Laufer, regional director of international reproductive health organization Marie Stopes.

"Many young people are not talking about sex and contraception, and they lack the knowledge to make informed decisions. Breaking the silence is critical," he said, adding that Asia Pacific youth were more likely than their counterparts in other regions to have unprotected sex.

The online survey was conducted among 603 males and 606 females across Australia, China, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

(Reporting by Miral Fahmy; Editing by Jerry Norton)