The Toronto Teen Survey Report on teen sexual health, released Tuesday, said the young women and men were most likely to seek sexual-health information from friends, but that both groups would prefer to get it from professional sources, such as doctors, nurses and teachers.

As one province grants parents the right to pull their kids from classes on controversial topics of sex and religion, a major new study is calling for more — not less — sex education to keep teens from risky behaviour.
A survey of 1,250 teens from diverse backgrounds in Toronto found that what youth want more than anything else is information, said lead researcher Sarah Flicker, a York University professor of environmental studies.
The Toronto Teen Survey Report on teen sexual health, released Tuesday, said the young women and men were most likely to seek sexual-health information from friends, but that both groups would prefer to get it from professional sources, such as doctors, nurses and teachers.
The study, one of the country's largest surveys of young people's sexual health, also found both young men and women said they fear feeling judged when they access sexual-health care.
"I think access to sexual-health education is a basic human right," Flicker said.
"We know, through research, that lots of young people are sexually active, and many of them don't ask their parents' permission."
Their fear won't be lessened, she said, by legislation such as Alberta's Bill 44, which passed a tense vote in the provincial legislature early Tuesday after hours of heated debate.
The bill, which writes protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation into Alberta's human-rights law for the first time ever, also gives parents a controversial escape clause for classroom discussions that clash with their religious or moral beliefs. The bill enshrines parents' right to withdraw their children from classes on sexual orientation, sexuality or religion.
Critics said the bill could force teachers and school boards to defend themselves before quasi-judicial human-rights commissions for discussing sexual orientation and religion in the classroom.
A "chill" against discussing controversial issues might set in among teachers, opposition parties alleged.
The Conservative government of Premier Ed Stelmach insisted the bill would not stifle casual classroom discussion of sexual or religious topics, and offered to head off frivolous complaints against teachers to the provincial human-rights commission.
Flicker said any law that throws up walls between kids and the sexual information they need will only lead some to make uninformed, risky choices.
"It's clear that one-size-fits-all prevention strategies don't work; we need to be tailoring our health-promotion and prevention strategies to meet the needs of diverse young people," she said.
"We need to be addressing issues of racism, of sexism, of homophobia, in our curriculum, and talking about how these harmful messages can often impede our ability to make really good choices."
Among other things, the survey suggested that what most youth want is information about how to have healthy relationships.
Flicker said the challenge now is to figure out how to provide that information.
"It's really about starting with open, honest and clear communication with young people — about their bodies, about their rights, about their choices and opportunities," she said.
Offshoots of the study are focusing on exactly how youth define "healthy relationships." Researchers have just finished 18 focus groups on the matter, and are now analyzing the data.
Flicker said she's hopeful changes are coming in Ontario, where the health-education curriculum is currently under review, but worries that teens across Canada may not have access to the services they need.
"Even in this great urban centre, where we have amazing services for young people, we're still seeing these challenges," she said. "It's got to be that much worse in rural or remote environments."
The Toronto teen survey report on sexual health found:
- 83 per cent of respondents, ages 13 to 18, said they had never visited a health-care provider for any sexual health-related reason;
- Healthy relationships, HIV/AIDS and sexual pleasure were the areas in which teens thought the current curriculum is lacking;
- 69 per cent of participants reported kissing a partner, 25 per cent reported giving or receiving oral sex, 27 per cent reported vaginal intercourse, seven per cent reported anal sex, and 24 per cent per cent said they had never engaged in any sexual experience;
- Youth who were less likely to engage in higher-risk sexual activity were younger, female, not born in Canada, or identified as Muslim, Asian or East Asian;
- Those who were more likely to engage in higher-risk sexual activity (vaginal/anal intercourse) were older, male, not exclusively heterosexual, and received sex education in multiple locations;
- Young women who have accessed sexual-health care are most likely to go for birth control, pap smears and pregnancy tests; and
- Young men who have gone to services are most likely to go for free condoms, information about safer sex, and HIV or STI testing.

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