The results? At least one in four teenage American girls, which equates to more than 3 million teens, has a sexually transmitted disease. This information has startled U.S. health officials, who are now calling for better screening, vaccination and prevention. The general consensus appears to be placing the blame of these alarming results on abstinence-only sex education, and the teenagers’ own sense of invulnerability.
Although only about half of the girls in the study admitted to having sex, among those females who did acknowledge engaging in sexual behaviors, the rate was even more troubling - as 40% of these girls were found to have an STD. The teens were tested for common STDs: human papillomavirus (HPV) affected 18% of girls studied; chlamydia was found in 4% of the teens; trichomoniasis, 2.5%; and genital herpes, 2%. Additionally, disease rates were notably higher among black girls (nearly half had at least one STD) versus 20% among both whites and Mexican-Americans.
Dr. Sara Forhan, the CDC researcher conducting the study analyzed a nationally representative data on girls ages 14 to 19 who participated in a 2003-04 government health survey. Although that data may be a few years old, Dr. John Douglas, director of the CDC's division of STD prevention, explains that they likely reflect current prevalence rates.
According to Dr. Douglas, STD screening tests are underused due to many teens not thinking that they're at risk while some doctors mistakenly believe that STDs don't happen to the kinds of patients they see. Dr. Margaret Blythe, head of an American Academy of Pediatrics committee on adolescence, explains that some doctors are hesitant to discuss STDs with teen patients or offer screening due to confidentiality concerns (the teen’s parents would have to be told the results). Nonetheless, Blythe points out that the Academy of Pediatrics supports confidential teen screening.
This study comes at the heels of the late 2007 discovery that the teen birth rate rose for the time in 15 years. It makes one wonder…what’s going on? Teenagers are being put in the position of having to make responsible decisions that adults may not be properly preparing them for. Teens must be educated to understand that STDs can only be prevented through abstinence and condom use. With so many sex myths floating around, many sexually-active teens are not receiving factual information on how to protect themselves.
And teens need to be properly informed as STDs can be serious. HPV can cause cervical cancer, and the virus can also cause genital warts (which can’t be cured). Chlamydia (often without symptoms) can lead to infertility. Trichomoniasis can cause abnormal discharge and painful urination, and genital herpes causes painful blisters and is not curable.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, best sums this up in her the following quoted about this study -- it shows that "the national policy of promoting abstinence-only programs is a $1.5 billion failure, and teenage girls are paying the real price."
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