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November 24, 1999

Attitudes Toward and Definitions of Having Sex

Author Affiliations

Phil B.FontanarosaMD, Interim CoeditorIndividualAuthorMargaret A.WinkerMD, Deputy EditorIndividualAuthorStephenLurieMD PhD, Fishbein FellowIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1999;282(20):1916-1919. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-282-20-jbk1124

To the Editor: Dr Sanders and Reinisch1 have provided a much-needed service with the publication of their article to all of us who provide primary care to the adolescent and young adult population.

As a pediatrician, when I ask an adolescent if he or she is sexually active, it is imperative that both the patient and I are talking the same language. If "sexually active" to the patient only means penile-vaginal intercourse, while to me it may encompass a much larger set of physical intimacies, then the patient and I may miss an important opportunity to discuss issues such as birth control, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (which are also transmitted through acts other than intercourse), and intimacy and relationships in general. Realizing that I now need to ask about specific physical acts, rather than general activity, can only enhance my potential to have a positive impact through counseling.

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