Every year there are 20 million new sexually transmitted infections (STDs) in the United States. And, while teens and young adults only account for 27 percent of sexually active people, they have half of these infections.
Anyone who is sexually active can get a sexually transmitted disease but young female adolescents have much more risk of infection than older women. Young women also tend to have much worse infections with higher incidence of pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.
Each year 24,000 women become infertile because of undiagnosed sexually transmitted infections. Teens and young adults have 70 percent of new gonorrhea infections, 63 percent of chlamydia infections, almost half of new HPV human papilloma virus (HPV) and herpes (HSV) infections. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is also a risk in teens as they account for 20 percent of new HIV cases each year. Young males in same sex relationships account for almost one-third of the new HIV cases in youth.
Youth are at higher risk because of several unique factors. They have insufficient screening. Almost half of chlamydia infections and two-thirds of gonorrhea infections go undetected because they have no symptoms and are not screened.
Many teens are concerned about confidentiality and don’t discuss sexual behavior with doctors or health care providers. Young women are more susceptible to infections because of their biological makeup. Many young people don’t have access to condoms or to healthcare because of lack of insurance or money or transportation. And, many young people have multiple sexual partners, putting them at increased risk of infection.
There are things that can be done to keep teens and their partners safe and healthy. STDs are preventable.
1. Practice Abstinence. This means not having sex of any kind. That is the surest way to avoid STDs.
2. Have Fewer Partners. If you do have sex, have one partner who also agrees to have only you as a partner. Get tested before you have sex with this partner. If you do have a STD, get treated before having sex.
3. Talk To Your Partner. Be sure you are ready to have sex. Be sure you know the risks of STDs and pregnancy. Be sure to get tested before having sex. Be sure to use condoms every time you are sexually active. Discuss all birth control options.
4. Use Condoms. Condoms used correctly and consistently can prevent STDs and can prevent pregnancy. You can still get certain STDs (herpes and HPV and others) from skin contact even when using condoms.
5. Get Vaccinated. HPV is the most common STD and can be prevented with a vaccine!
6. Get Tested. The only way to be sure you don’t have an STD is to get tested. While screening is not done for all STDs, HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia can be and should be tested for routinely. AND, if you test positive for an STD, many are curable and all are treatable!
For more information about Teen Sexual Health, come to our next Healthy University lecture Wednesday, March 7 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Medical Arts Building 2 Conference Room at Fayette County Memorial Hospital. We will have information on talking to your teen or your parent about sexual health, pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted diseases and lots more.
The information for this article was provided by Fayette County Memorial Hospital.