A study has revealed that sexually active boys are not getting adequate counselling about sexual health.
The study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Children's Center analysed data from the 1995 National Survey of Adolescent Males and the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth.
It found that only 26 percent of teens who reported high-risk sex, such as having sex with a prostitute or an HIV-infected person or having sex while high or drunk, said they received HIV/STI counselling at the doctor's office in the year preceding the survey.
Twenty-one percent of all sexually active boys, regardless of risk, said they discussed HIV and other STIs with their doctors.
The study also found no improvement in how well teenage males were screened for STIs and HIV between 1995 and 2002, even though in the early 1990s, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Paediatrics both issued guidelines urging physicians to make sexual health counselling and related services part of the regular exam for teenagers.
The researchers say their findings signal the need for better STI counselling of young male patients in order to minimize risky behaviours.
"If guidelines alone can't change what is being done at the doctor's office, then the million-dollar question becomes how to get doctors and nurses to talk with their patients about sexual health," lead investigator Arik Marcell, M.D., M.P.H., a paediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist at Hopkins Children's, said.
Marcell and colleagues say the first step to better counselling is the use of evidence-based, uniform guidelines to reduce confusion among providers.
And, they say, it is critical to understand what prevents providers from counselling and devise ways to eliminate any such barriers.
In the meantime, paediatricians on the frontlines should ACT: sk, counsel, test.
"Ask the patient if he is sexually active, counsel him about risk and test accordingly," Marcell added.
The findings were published online ahead of print in the Journal of Adolescent Health.