Q&A: Parents

  1. What do they teach in Rhode Island public schools about HIV, STDs, and sex?
  2. I heard that in Rhode Island teens can get tested for HIV and STDs without permission from their parent/guardian. Is this true?
  3. How common are STDs among teens?
  4. How common is sex and condom use among high school students in Rhode Island?
  5. I have teen children who still go to their pediatrician for check-ups. Should I assume the pediatrician is talking to them about sex and testing them for HIV and STDs?
  6. I have a teenage son who just told me he is gay. How can I make sure he stays healthy?
  7. Should I let my child’s doctor know that I recently learned my teenager is sexually active? Will the doctor judge me as a parent?
  8. Can you tell me more about the “HPV” vaccine? If my doctor recommends it for my daughter/son, does that mean my child is sexually active? What does the vaccine protect my child from?
  9. My teen just had a check-up with our family doctor? Will the doctor let me know if my teen is sexually active?
  10. I have a teen son and our pediatrician is a woman. My son told me he wants a different doctor who is a man that would be more comfortable for him to talk to. What should I do?
  11. Can you recommend a good website that provides information on how parents can talk to their children about sex?
What do they teach in Rhode Island public schools about HIV, STDs, and sex?

Rhode Island state law requires comprehensive sexuality education. Local school boards decide which subjects this education must cover and the grade level in which topics are introduced.

The information provided must be age-appropriate and medically accurate. Abstinence must be covered as the only completely effective protection against unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV/AIDS. Teaching about contraceptives, such as condoms, the pill, or the patch, is also required.

However, the information taught and the amount of time spent on sexuality education varies from school to school. Contact your school principal or your local Board of Education to learn more.

 

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I heard that in Rhode Island teens can get tested for HIV and STDs without permission from their parent/guardian. Is this true?

Yes. Teens in Rhode Island can get tested for HIV, STDs, and pregnancy without their parents’ or guardian’s permission.

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How common are STDs among teens?

According to a recent study, one in four teenage girls is infected with at least one STD.  This New York Times article provides more information.

 

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How common is sex and condom use among high school students in Rhode Island?

According to a survey (Youth Risk Behavior Survey) conducted in 2009 among Rhode Island high school students, 44% had sexual intercourse in their lifetimes, and 32% had sexual intercourse with one or more partners in the past three months. Among those students having sex in the past three months, 32% did not use a condom during their last intercourse. See this report for more information: Rhode Island High School Risk-Summary Report – 2010

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I have teen children who still go to their pediatrician for check-ups. Should I assume the pediatrician is talking to them about sex and testing them for HIV and STDs?

During regular check-ups pediatricians should conduct a comprehensive exam of all their patients. Depending on the patient’s age and sexually maturity, pediatricians should ask about sexual behaviors of their patients. Depending on the patient’s response, the doctor or nurse may conduct STD and HIV tests.

If there is any reason that you think your child needs HIV or STD testing, please be sure to mention this to the doctor or nurse prior to the check-up.  It is also recommended to let your child visit with the doctor alone to discuss any concerns he/she may have.

 

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I have a teenage son who just told me he is gay. How can I make sure he stays healthy?

The most important thing for you to do is to show support of your son and to facilitate open communication with him.

As a parent, you should try to understand his thoughts and feelings about being gay, as well as express your acceptance. With open communication, you can learn how to guide him to make healthy decisions and, if necessary, make sure he gets appropriate STD/HIV testing and has access to condoms. If you feel uncomfortable having these discussions with him, it is important for you try to find another trusted adult in your family, school, or community that can talk with him. Sometimes gay young men feel more comfortable talking about their thoughts and feelings with adult gay men.

If your son chooses to be sexually active, he needs to learn about ways to protect himself from STDs and HIV. He also needs to get regularly tested for HIV and STDs. (Importantly, this applies to ALL teens: boys and girls, straight and gay.)

Gay teens who want to talk to other teens like them can contact Youth Pride, Inc., for support and counseling (Youth Pride website),

Parents of gay and lesbian children may want to check out PFLAG for information: PFLAG website.

 

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Should I let my child’s doctor know that I recently learned my teenager is sexually active? Will the doctor judge me as a parent?

Yes, you need to communicate this to your child’s doctor, and no, the doctor will not judge you as a parent.

It is important for parents to communicate any concerns they have about their child’s health to their child’s doctor, including sexual activity. You may want to have a short discussion with the doctor and your child before his/her medical check-up to discuss the fact your child is sexually active. You do not need to go into details at this time; during the private exam between the doctor and child, the doctor will ask the appropriate questions to learn about your child’s sexual behavior.

Most doctors understand that discussions about sexuality can be awkward between a parent and child. Doctors are specially trained to talk to their teen patients about sex. Doctors respect and appreciate the important role parents play in their teen child’s health, including their sexual health. Doctors will be grateful and appreciative when parents share important health information with them about their children, including issues related to sexual health.

 

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Can you tell me more about the “HPV” vaccine? If my doctor recommends it for my daughter/son, does that mean my child is sexually active? What does the vaccine protect my child from?

The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine prevents infection with certain species of human papillomavirus associated with the development of cervical cancer, genital warts, and some less common cancers.

Doctors recommend the vaccine for both girls and boys. The vaccine is most effective when administered prior to any sexual activity, so a recommendation from your doctor to vaccinate your child with the HPV vaccine does not necessarily mean that your child is currently sexually active or plans to be in the near future.

 

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My teen just had a check-up with our family doctor? Will the doctor let me know if my teen is sexually active?

No. Doctor/patient confidentiality is maintained between health care providers and their teen patients.  However, if your child is at risk of physically harming him/herself or someone else, the doctor has an obligation to act on this, which includes informing the parent or guardian.

If your doctor learns your child is sexually active, the doctor should advise your child about safe sex practices.

 

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I have a teen son and our pediatrician is a woman. My son told me he wants a different doctor who is a man that would be more comfortable for him to talk to. What should I do?

This can be a very sensitive topic and it is a good sign that your son expressed his feelings against having a female doctor.

The first step is to reassure your son that all doctors are trained to care for all their patients: boys and girls alike.

However, if your son still feels uncomfortable, it is probably best to let your female doctor know about his reservations and determine if there is a male doctor in the practice that he can see.

A comfortable relationship with a doctor is essential for open communication, so do your best to be responsive to your son’s feelings. This same holds true for the reverse situation of a daughter seeing a male doctor.

 

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Can you recommend a good website that provides information on how parents can talk to their children about sex?

Yes.  Check out Talk with Your Kids.

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