28 December 2007
The New Paper
More S’pore teens contracting STIs
by Low Ching Ling Sun
In the heat of the moment, he let his guard down and had unprotected sex with a stranger he met through the Internet.
Only later did it occur to Ben (not his real name), 19, that his moment of passion could cost him dearly.
He started to worry about contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
So last Wednesday, he got himself tested at the Department of Sexually Transmitted Infections Control (DSC) Clinic at Kelantan Lane.
It was the first time he had gone for an STI test – even though it wasn’t the first time he had sex with a stranger.
The results are not out, but Ben’s fears are very real.
In the first nine months of this year, 657 teens aged between 10 and 19 sought help for STIs, almost thrice the number of cases in 2002.
Ben told The New Paper: ‘I was really worried about getting (STI). So instead of leaving it to chance, I decided to get tested.’
His liaison with the man lasted two weeks. They did not always have protected sex, something Ben claimed he had always practised previously.
But Ben is no stranger to casual sex.
When he was 15, he had his first sexual experience because he was ‘curious’.
A Students’ Health Survey of 3,844 Sec 1 to Sec 4 students, conducted by the Health Promotion Board last year, showed that the average age when a teenager starts experimenting with sex is 15.
Since his first sexual encounter, Ben said he has had ’10 to 11′ sexual partners aged between 16 and 30, most of whom he met through Internet chatrooms.
MEET ON NET
The cyberworld has often been cited by the Government and health-care workers as a common way for gay men to hook up for casual sex.
But even after getting tested for STI, Ben did not stay away from sex with other men.
‘I just couldn’t control myself,’ he said.
Didn’t the fear of contracting STI overpower his sexual urges?
Ben confesses he is promiscuous and admits that increasingly, people his age ‘engage in sex without (attaching) morality to it’.
At a recent workshop for parents on how talk to their children about sex, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Information, Communications and the Arts, Dr Balaji Sadasivan said the results of a survey on adolescents about their attitudes towards sex were worrying.
He noted: ‘If children have knowledge of sex but no values, or values without knowledge, there’ll be trouble.’
What if Ben tests positive?
He said: ‘I haven’t really thought about how to face it (if it’s bad news). Honestly, I don’t think I’m prepared for (bad news) at all.’
But if indeed the worst were to happen, Ben said he would have to change his lifestyle.
‘I’ll probably settle for a long-term relationship, in which we can relate to each other in ways other than through sex.’
A counsellor at the DCS Clinic, who declined to be named, said more teens like Ben are getting tested at the clinic .
And more are having unprotected sex and having sex earlier.
The 38-year-old counsellor of 15 years said: ‘They’re split mainly into two groups – those who are in a boy-girl relationship, and those who are not in a proper relationship, who met their partners through Internet chatrooms and who have more than one sexual partner.’
The youngest person he has seen is 12.
The father of one said: ‘The main reason they give for having sex earlier is curiosity and that they want to explore. And most do it on the spur of the moment.
‘My colleagues who have teenage children say that it’s so scary working here (the clinic) because of the teens they see. They worry for their own children and wonder if they may become like that one day.’