Adolescent Health Care, Sexuality and Contraception

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) values the sexual health of adolescents in the United States.  The AAFP particularly recognizes the importance of reducing the incidence of unintended teenage pregnancies; reducing sexual assault; increasing awareness of the risks and signs in adolescents regarding sex trafficking; and increasing awareness of the legal ramifications of sexuality and technology. The AAFP believes that an evidence-based approach to sexual health education will effectively address these issues, and recognizes the need for more comprehensive and effective sex education programs in the community.  The AAFP endorses opt-out comprehensive sexual education in all states and does not support abstinence-only sexual education.  The AAFP recommends that:

  1. All sexual education programs (including programs for reproductive health, pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention, etc.) includes medically accurate and evidence-based information.
  2. Family physicians should provide appropriate guidance and counseling to educate patients about responsible sexual behaviors that decrease the risk of unplanned pregnancy and transmission of STIs. Patient education should address signs and symptoms of STIs and the need for testing even when patients are asymptomatic.
  3. Comprehensive education and counseling regarding sexual practices of adolescents should include discussion about genital, anal, oral, and other types of sexual contact.
  4. Family physicians should be aware that adolescents may be exploring sexual orientation and/or gender identity, which can impact their psychosocial and physical health.  Asking open-ended questions about sexual orientation and gender identity can open a dialogue about family relationships, safe sexual practices, mental health, and other issues confronting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and intersex adolscents in a sensitive and accepting atmosphere.
  5. Family physicians should discuss with and educate their adolescent patients on the concept of consent to sexual activity and what to do if sexual contact takes place against one’s consent.
  6. Family physicians should be knowledgeable about their state laws in regard to technology and sexuality and should educate adolescents about the risks of sexting and using social media in a sexual manner.
  7. Adolescents receiving family planning services deserve patient confidentiality.  Family physicians should be aware of any state laws where they provide care that may impact them and the reproductive rights of their patients.  Updated state laws can be found through the Guttmacher Institute at https://www.guttmacher.org(www.guttmacher.org).
  8. Family physicians are in an ideal position to encourage family members to be involved in sex education efforts. It is primarily from the family that an adolescent’s values and concept of sexual and reproductive responsibility arise.  Encouraging dialogue with parents or other trusted adults has been shown to positively impact outcomes of sexuality.
  9. Family physicians should be actively involved in community efforts that initiate and implement effective education and prevention programs for reducing unintended teenage pregnancy, and reducing STIs; addressing sexual assault; promoting safe use of technology in expressing sexuality; and increasing education regarding sex trafficking. Health education programs from elementary to high schools should include age-appropriate reproductive health education
  10. If a family physician is uncomfortable providing these services, the patient should be referred to another clinician who is willing to provide the education and/or services.

(1987) (2016 September BOD)