Opinion Highlights Risks of Sexual Activity
Special Report - September 5, 2008
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) is urging physicians to advise their female adolescent and adult patients about the serious disease risks of sexual activities that do not involve sexual intercourse. In an opinion issued September 1 and published this month in the journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology, the ACOG Committee on Adolescent Health Care, and the Committee on Gynecologic Practice note that “non-coital” sexual activities (not involving intercourse) are common among some adolescents and adults, who may wish to reduce the risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease (STD), and that these activities carry some risk of certain STDs, particularly for women.
“Some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may be transmitted during noncoital sexual activity,” the ACOG committee opinion warns. “Infections can be spread through saliva, blood, vaginal secretions, semen, and fecal material. Preexisting infections, open sores, abrasions, or any compromise of the epithelial tissue can increase the risk of transmission.”
“Noncoital sexual activity is not necessarily ‘safe sex’,” the ACOG opinion continues, noting that several non-viral STDS, such as gonorrhea, Chlamydia and syphilis, can be spread through non-coital sexual activities, as well as Herpes and Human Pappilloma virus (HPV), one of the most common STDs that has been linked to cancer.
The ACOG opinion also advises doctors to discuss the risks of non-coital sexual activity with lesbian and bi-sexual women. “Our lesbian and bisexual patients also need to be screened for STDs based on the same risk factors as other women,” said Dr. Richard Guido, chair of ACOG’s Committee on Adolescent Health Care, in a statement. “Most lesbians have been sexually active with men at some point. Even without this sexual history, there are some STDs that can be transmitted between two women during sexual activity.”
The ACOG committee recommends a number of risk reduction strategies to lower the risk of STDs from non-coital sexual activities, including limiting the number of sexual partners, more consistent use of condoms, abstinence and/or mutual monogamy. However, it is important to note that condoms can only reduce the risk of some STDs, and offer little to no protection against STDs transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, such as HPV and syphilis. According to the CDC, “condom use cannot guarantee absolute protection against any STD.”
“This new committee opinion from ACOG highlights the importance of abstinence education programs,” said John Rusin, director of government relations for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “Young people today need to hear the truth about sexual activitythat only abstinence from all sexual activity until marriage and fidelity within marriage offers 100 percent protection against STDs. Too many young people are hearing the opposite message from comprehensive sex education advocates who actually promote non-coital sexual activities as alternatives to abstinence.”
Rustin continued, “Sex education should be aimed at preventing, not just reducing, the long list of negative consequences associated with early sexual activity for young people, including STDs, and abstinence education is the only prevention strategy aimed at protecting the total health of teens by helping them avoid the serious health risks of sexual activity outside of marriage.”
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.