The average age at which Vietnamese first have sex is 18.8, but 8.5 percent do it at 15 or even earlier, a recent study has found.
The average age has come down by nearly a year since five years ago, when it was 19.6, while the rate of premarital sex is higher.
The study by the Centre for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP) of 800 people aged between 14 and 24 found that nearly 70 percent of them, mainly students, had had premarital sex.
On the other hand, there is no improvement in young people's awareness of contraception and sexually transmitted diseases and infections since the previous survey, researchers said at a meeting held by the Ministry of Education and Training and UNESCO in Hanoi Tuesday.
For instance, only 13-17 percent of respondents knew about when the chances of conceiving are highest in the menstrual cycle, while a full one-fourth were not sure about measures to prevent HIV and other diseases.
Half of them did not know how to use condoms and 25 percent had no idea about female condoms.
In fact, 40 percent had not used any protective measures during their latest sexual activity before the survey. For those having sex for the first time this number rose to nearly 50 percent.
Pham Vu Thien, deputy director of the CCIHP, said a notable finding of the study is that one-third of those aged between 16 and 17 have had sex, underlining the "urgent need" to provide sex education to children under 15.
Dr Tran Thi Hoa, a pediatrician, said since children these days grow up sooner than before, especially in big cities, it is necessary to teach them about reproductive health at 11 years instead of the current 16.
Sex and reproductive health in schools now is ineffective and impractical, she said, adding that it must be "open" and ensure children trust both the contents and teachers.
Dr Nguyen Thu Giang, deputy chief of Light Institute for Development and Community Health, said at 16-17 people lack the knowledge to make decisions related to reproductive health.
"Educating children about living skills should be done by both family and school.
"As a doctor, I think it's already too late when children have to go to clinics."
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