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8 December 2008
Big increase in hetero anal sex worries health experts
by George Atkinson

Researchers at the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center say that the incidence of heterosexual anal sex among teens and young adults doubled between the years 1995 and 2004. Their study, which examines the likely implications of this finding, appears in the American Journal of Public Health.

"The topic of anal intercourse is often considered taboo - especially when discussed in the context of youth relationships - even though we know that this behavior is a significant risk factor for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections," said the study's lead author Celia Lescano, who believes that frank dialog about the topic is vitally important.

The study was based on the responses of more than 1,000 young men and women aged between 15 and 21 who had unprotected sex in the previous three months. The researchers found that 16 percent had engaged in heterosexual anal intercourse within this timeframe, with condoms being used just 29 percent of the time.

The study also indicated that females who had heterosexual anal sex were more likely to be living with their partners, to have two or more sexual partners and to have previously experienced coerced intercourse. "These findings suggest that the factors associated with anal intercourse among females in the study relate to the context and power balance of sexual relationships," says Lescano. "We must teach teen girls and young women how to be assertive in sexual relationships, such as refusing unwanted sexual acts and negotiating for safer sex, whether it's anal or vaginal."

"An open dialogue between health care providers and their young patients about anal intercourse is becoming increasingly important, and clinicians should ask about anal sex during discussions about vaginal intercourse and protection - regardless of the patient's gender or reported sexual orientation," concluded Lescano.

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Source: American Journal of Public Health

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