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Health & Parenting

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Teen Sex Unsafe Even With Main Lovers

Unsafe Sex Prevalent Among Teens With Main and Casual Partners
WebMD Health News

Aug. 23, 2006 -- Teens have as much unsafe sex with their main sex partners as they do with their casual sex contacts, Brown University researchers report.

Sexually active teens say they use condoms more often with casual sex partners than they do with their main sex partners -- that is, someone they consider a spouse, a lover, a boyfriend, or a girlfriend.

But whether it's with main or casual sex partners, teens report some 20 unprotected sex acts per three months. The finding comes from a study of 1,316 sexually active teens. Celia M. Lescano, PhD, of Bradley/Hasbro Children's Research Center and Brown University was one of the researchers.

"Unfortunately, this reveals that teens may overestimate the safety of using condoms most of the time with a casual partner and underestimate the risk of unprotected sex with a serious partner," Lescano, said in a news release. "Given these high rates of unprotected sex, teens in both groups may be at risk for contracting HIV and sexually transmitted diseases."

Lescano and colleagues report their findings in the September issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Different Sex Partners, Different Risks

Lescano and colleagues recruited teens in three U.S. cities: Atlanta, Miami, and Providence, R.I. The teens ranged in age from 15 to 21 with an average age of 18. Recruited from primary care clinics and outreach efforts, 49% of the teens were black, 24% were Hispanic, and 20% were non-Hispanic whites. More than half (57%) were female. All were heterosexual.

The teens completed audio, computer-assisted self-interviews. They were asked about their sexual activity over the past 90 days. For each sex act, they were asked whether their partner was a "spouse, lover, or boyfriend or girlfriend." If so, the partner was considered a main partner; if not, a casual partner.

More than a third of the teens -- most of them males -- reported sex with a casual partner. Those with casual partners averaged more sex partners (3.24) than those reporting main partners (1.34). About 10% of teens with main partners also reported casual partners.

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