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The BBC's Yvette Austin
"Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in Europe"
 real 28k

Sunday, 13 February, 2000, 06:09 GMT
Young take risks with sex

Kiss Many young people have unprotected sex

Young people are still willing to take sexual risks despite more than a decade of publicity warning of the dangers of unprotected sex, a BBC survey reveals.

A Valentine's Day sex survey for BBC2's Sussed programme shows that three-quarters of young people have had unprotected sex and that a third had sex when they were under 16.

I was having sex before I even knew what the age of consent was
Susan, 22
Recent figures released by the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) show that new infections of the Aids virus in 1999 were the highest for a decade.

The Sussed survey indicates that young people are worried about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases but are prepared to risk unprotected sex.

Three-quarters (76%) admitted having unprotected sex and more than one in five (22%) said they had not used a condom when having casual sex.

Most said they had not felt under pressure to lose their virginity although 20% felt that publicity about the sex lives of celebrities created pressure to have sex.

When asked about the dangers of unprotected sex, nearly all (88%) cited pregnancy as one of their fears along with the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (87%).

Only 7% agreed with the statement: "It may lead to pregnancy but I don't care."

Nearly all those who were surveyed (90%) had received sex education but 84% said it made no difference to the likelihood of them having sex.

One in ten said it made them more likely to have sex.

First experience of sexual intercourse
Up to 14 years old - 18%
15 years old - 15%
16 years old - 17%
17 years old - 14%
18 years old - 12%
19 years old - 4%
Older than 20 years old - 6%
Not had sex - 14%
When asked what sex education should teach young people, the vast majority wanted information on issues relating to pregnancy (94%), the consequences of unprotected sex and sexually transmitted diseases (95%) and the biological facts (88%).

The ICM survey of 18 to 24-year-olds indicates that half had experienced their first proper kiss by 13 and that nine out of ten had done so by the time they were 16.

Many sexual partners

The average number of sexual partners was between four and five although nearly one in five had slept with more than 10 partners.

Just less than half (48%) thought the current age of consent was right and one in seven believed it should be scrapped altogether.

Among those who had sex before 16, two-thirds did not think they were breaking the law.

Most of those questioned thought the contraceptive pill and the morning-after pill should be more easily available.

Four out of ten thought the contraceptive pill should be available at schools with slightly fewer (36%) saying the morning after pill should also be available at school.

Sex is great, it's important, but it's not something to engage in when you are not mature enough to handle it
Paul Boateng, Home Office Minister
One 22-year-old woman surveyed highlighted the problems faced by the government in its attempts to discourage pre-16s from having sex.

She said: "I was having sex before I even knew what the age of consent was."

Another contributor, who was pregnant at 13, said: "Basically they are telling you how to have sex, not what happens when you have sex. They don't tell you, you need to be in a relationship."

Home Office Minister Paul Boateng said: "Sex is great, it's important, but it's not something to engage in when you are not mature enough to handle it.

"It can be, if you are not ready for it, not a particularly happy experience.

"Speaking personally, I wasn't ready for sex before the age of 16."

Sussed is broadcast on BBC2 on Sunday 13 February at 1150GMT.

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See also:
18 Jan 00 |  Health
Boys red-faced over condoms
28 Jan 00 |  Health
Straight sex HIV cases rise
07 Feb 00 |  Health
Frequent union of students
08 Jan 00 |  Health
Morning-after pill over the counter
01 Dec 99 |  Health
Warning over Aids complacency

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