12 March 2008

STD in Teens

Only about half of the girls in the study acknowledged having sex. Some teens define sex as only intercourse, yet other types of intimate behavior including oral sex can spread some diseases.

Among those who admitted having sex, the rate was even more disturbing—40 percent had an STD. . . . The overall STD rate among the 838 girls in the study was 26 percent . . . It is an analysis of nationally representative records on girls ages 14 to 19 who participated in a 2003-04 government health survey.

The teens were tested for four infections: human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer and affected 18 percent of girls studied; chlamydia, which affected 4 percent; trichomoniasis, 2.5 percent; and genital herpes, 2 percent. . . . Disease rates were significantly higher among black girls—nearly half [Ed. a hard copy graphic said 48%] had at least one STD, versus 20 percent among both whites and Mexican-Americans.

From here.

The ethnic disparities are striking. It follows from the numbers that the percentage of black teens who are sexually active is much higher than the percentage of white and Mexican American teens who are sexually active. It also follows from these numbers that the percentage of sexually active black teen girls with STDs exceeds 40%, while the percentage of sexually active teens who are in the white or Mexican-American category is less than 40%.

Fortunately, due to a new vaccine, while HPV the most common of the STDs, is also the most preventable. Widespread use of the vaccine could cut the overall incidence of STDs in teenage girls from about 26% to about 10% (an estimate that assumes that HPV and non-HPV incidence are independent variables among sexually active teen girls).

The article also offers background on the four STDs screened for in the study:

HPV, the cancer-causing virus, can also cause genital warts but often has no symptoms. A vaccine targeting several HPV strains recently became available, but Douglas said it probably hasn't yet had much impact on HPV prevalence rates in teen girls. The CDC recommends the three-dose HPV vaccine for girls ages 11-12 and catch-up shots for ages 13-26.

Chlamydia, which often has no symptoms but can lead to infertility, can be treated with antibiotics. The CDC recommends annual chlamydia screening for all sexually active women under age 25. Trichomoniasis, also treatable with antibiotics, can cause abnormal discharge and painful urination. Genital herpes can cause blisters but often has no symptoms. It's not curable but medicine can help.

UPDATE: The Denver Post ran a second front page article on March 13 (the next day, which seems excessive) on this story today and added the following tidbits:

[In] Denver Health's 14 school-based clinics in Denver Public Schools. . . about 1,950 student-visits a year are related to STDs — either for education, testing or treatment . . . . school clinics can now dispense a vaccine against human papillomavirus . . . They cannot dispense condoms. . . .

Chlamydia rates in juvenile detention centers [served by Denver Health] were four times higher than the national average . . . . is nearly 18 percent. . . . The state health department is also beginning STD educational campaigns in communities in west Denver and the Montbello neighborhood, where STD rates are also high[.]

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