Youngsters are, on average, 16 years old and sober when they make their sexual debut with somebody they have known for a while. However, condoms feature in just half of sexual encounters with new or casual partners, reveals a major survey on the sexual habits, attitudes and knowledge of young people carried out by the University of Gothenburg on behalf of the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control.

“Condoms [are] an essential part of having sex,” says Ronny Heikki Tikkanen, one of the researchers behind the study which polled 15,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 29 right across Sweden. “The fact that so many don’t use condoms, even though they know that they offer protection against both STIs and unwanted pregnancies, shows how important it is to work on attitudes and behaviour.”

The survey clearly demonstrates that those who start having sex at a young age and are generally inclined to take risks with alcohol and drugs are also likely to do so with sex. It is also more common for risk-takers to have accepted payment for sex. Those identified by the study as having exposed themselves to sexual risks have generally encountered HIV prevention initiatives without them having impacted notably on their behaviour.

Young people happy with their sexual experiences but many take risks.

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