Doctors and Sex

Not talking about sexual health to adolescents? In Paul Offit's "Let’s Not Talk About Sex: Why aren’t doctors promoting the lifesaving HPV vaccine?" he suggests that, "uptake of this cancer-preventing vaccine is abysmal. One reason: Doctors don’t want to talk about sex [and that]…the good news is, they don’t have to…it’s not about sex. It’s about cancer."  

As a therapist in New York who helps people with sexual issues, I think the culture of "not talking about sex" (especially to youth) is part of a larger problem.  Doctors are just like other adults acting out of fear that "the HPV vaccine may increase sexual promiscuity."  Offit makes the relevant point that it does not: A study of 1,243 young women and girls between the ages of 15 and 24 alleviated this concern. Those who received the HPV vaccine were not more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. Nor did it make sense that they would. The HPV vaccine doesn’t prevent other sexually transmitted diseases…"

But I disagree with him that "not talking about sex" is the answer.  We have to get over the discomfort of talking about sex.  It is a shame that, as Offit puts it, "one of the top reasons parents gave for not vaccinating was the lack of a recommendation from their health care providers. A likely reason: Doctors are uncomfortable talking about sex with 11-year-olds."   I believe another relevant question not posed in his article is how to de-stigmatize speaking about sexual health with young people.  This might prove a mental vaccination of sorts against a whole host of psych issues in their futures.

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