While she knows young people are having sex at younger ages, the executive director of the Cape Breton Centre for Sexual Health says she’s surprised the numbers are higher in this region than in some other parts of the province.

Cathie Penny was responding to information presented at a recent conference on healthy sexuality she attended in Yarmouth.

“I was surprised that Cape Breton had the (highest) number, I wasn’t surprised that that was an issue, that kids under 15 are now having sex more often,” she said, noting she works in the school system.

As part of a survey of sexual behaviour of students in the Yarmouth area, Dalhousie University professor Don Langille compared findings from that area with north-central Nova Scotia and the area covered by the Cape Breton District Health Authority.

He found that girls from Cape Breton were more sexually active than those of the other communities — 52.9 per cent of 15-to-16-year-old girls were sexually active, compared in north-central Nova Scotia.

And students in Cape Breton were more likely to have sex earlier. Girls in Cape Breton in the 15-16 age group were more likely to use effective contraception.

Sexual education is now concentrated at the junior high level, Penny noted, and that information is available through youth health centres at the high schools that have them.

Having those conversations at home as well is equally if not more important, she said.

Many young people are experimenting with oral sex rather than intercourse, Penny added.

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