Put WHAT on the end of it? Survey reveals Herts teens know shockingly little about sexual health

Sexual health
Sexual health

A snapshot survey by the county’s HIV and sexual health charity has revealed worrying gaps in teenagers’ understanding of contraception.

HertsAid believes young people in the area lack vital knowledge on sexually transmitted infections and condom use, with more than one in 10 believing that using two condoms at the same time was safer than using one.

More than a tenth of those questioned also thought it was safe to wash out condoms and use them again, or said they weren’t sure.

The poll asked 184 young people in Hertfordshire aged between 13 and 18 vital questions on sexual health, including on the morning-after pill.

Almost a fifth of the teens approached hadn’t even heard of emergency contraception, and well over half weren’t sure whether women can get pregnant if they have sex during their period.

The charity’s director Suzanne Bannister said: “Young people experience the highest STI rates, yet our survey shows there are still real gaps in sexual health knowledge.

“It’s vital that teenagers are aware of the risks of STIs and know how to protect themselves.

“While washing a condom and using it again might sound funny, the risk of infection definitely isn’t.”

HertsAid works with young people to raise awareness of HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Worryingly, the survey also revealed dangerous misconceptions about HIV among the young in the county.

Almost a third taking the survey thought the virus can be passed on through spitting on someone, and more than one in 10 thought using the same toilet seat as someone with HIV could put them at risk.

When asked if condoms can protect someone from acquiring HIV, a third of teenagers surveyed didn’t know or thought they couldn’t.

The charity believes current sex and relationships education in schools can leave young people without the knowledge they need. While Ms Bannister also believes parents have a duty to educate their children about sexual health, an overwhelming 61 per cent of respondents to the survey said they did not feel comfortable speaking to their family on the issue.

Click here for more information from HertsAid. Young people who have questions on sexual health can contact the charity anonymously by texting questions to 07860 017 183.