Sexual health misconceptions among young Australians

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Young Aussies are unaware of important sexual health facts and it's putting them at risk, according to results from the Bupa Sexual Health Survey 2011.

Young Aussies are unaware of important sexual health facts and it’s putting them at risk, according to results from the Bupa Sexual Health Survey 2011* released last month.

The survey of 18-35 year old Australians has revealed a series of myths and misconceptions regarding sexual health, highlighting the need for young Australians to stay up to date on the latest sexual health information.

Alarmingly, nearly one in ten young men believe the contraceptive pill protects against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and one in five males are unaware that catching an STD could affect their fertility.

Nearly half of respondents believe that Pap smears can detect STDs, despite widespread health education campaigns highlighting that Pap tests are a cancer screening tool.

Dr Stan Goldstein, Bupa’s Head of Clinical Advisory said arming young Australians with the right knowledge is an important part of helping them make the right sexual health choices.

“The level of misinformation about sexual health should be a concern, particularly given recent figures which show the incidence of STDs has been increasing again in Australia,” Dr Goldstein said.

The survey also revealed that four in ten young Australians do not know when a woman is most fertile and therefore most likely to fall pregnant, which may be a contributing factor to a rise in unwanted pregnancies.

Dr Goldstein went on to say: “Having the wrong information can undoubtedly contribute to Australians making the wrong decisions when it comes to contraception.
“The increased risk of unwanted pregnancies can create significant and very long term consequences.

“It is critical to continue investment in effective health education, so we can protect and maintain the health of young Australians by ensuring they get their facts straight,” he said.

Busting the myths

Myth 1: Pap tests can detect sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Fact: Pap smears do not check for STIs, they test for cancer of the cervix. To be tested for STIs or to have a sexual health check-up, you should see your doctor or visit a sexual health clinic.

Myth 2: The contraceptive pill protects against contracting STIs

Fact: The contraceptive pill will protect against unplanned pregnancy if used properly but does not protect against STIs at all.

Myth 3: Catching a STI will not affect a person’s fertility

Fact: STIs including Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, non-specific urethritis and cervicitis can cause or increase the risk of infertility in both men and women.

View the Bupa Sexual Health Survey infographic

*About the survey
Pure Profile conducted a survey of 603 Australian males and 600 Australian females aged 18-35. The survey was conducted nationally in July 2011 and uncovered a series of misconceptions regarding sexual health.

About Bupa in Australia
As Australia’s largest privately owned healthcare group, Bupa’s purpose is to help Australians live longer, healthier, happier lives.

Bupa Australia Pty Limited proudly provides health insurance to more than three million Australians under the well known health insurance brands MBF, HBA, and Mutual Community. It also provides complementary healthcare services through Bupa Health Dialog Pty Ltd, Bupa Wellness Pty Ltd (trading as Peak Health Management) and Health Eyewear Pty Limited (trading as Blink Optical). Bupa Care Services Pty Limited is an aged care provider with 47 facilities around Australia.

Bupa focuses on providing sustainable healthcare solutions that represent real value, and on leading the industry in the promotion of preventive health and wellness – helping customers better manage their health for the long-term. Bupa’s Australian businesses are part of the international Bupa Group, which cares for more than 30 million people in over 190 countries.


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Stella Tilkeridis

Fionnuala Maye
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