At age 16
John had sex with Andrea. Just one time. He enjoyed the
experience but felt guilty and decided the risk of sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs) and pregnancy were just too great.
He did not have sex again until nine years later when he married
Cindy, who was a virgin. Three months after their wedding Cindy
began having painful symptoms. Unknowingly John, who had never
had any symptoms of disease, had brought two STDs into his
marriage. But John and Cindy were lucky; they both responded to
treatment and are healthy today. Many others, however, are not
so fortunate. Today STDs are at unprecedented and epidemic
proportions. Thirty years of the sexual revolution is paying an
ugly dividend, and those most at risk are teenagers. This is
true partially because teenagers are more sexually active than
ever before, but also because teenage girls are more susceptible
to STDs than males or adult females.
While a few
STDs can be transmitted apart from sex acts, all are
transmissible by the exchange of bodily fluids during intimate
sexual contact. I want to discuss the severity of the problem as
well as what must be done if we are to save a majority of the
next generation from the shame, infertility, and sometimes
death, that may result from STDs.
are not aware of some of the following statistics, then prepare
to fasten your seat belt because what I have to report is not
pretty. The information I am about to share is from data
gathered by the Medical Institute for Sexual Health in Austin,
Texas.(1) All of these statistics are readily available from
reputable medical and scientific journals.
there are approximately 25 STDs. A few can be fatal. Some are
relatively harmless, but all are humiliating. Many women are
living in fear of what their future may hold as a result of STD
infection. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans between the
ages of 15 and 55 are currently infected with one or more viral
STDs, and 12 million Americans are newly infected each year.
That's nearly 5% of the entire population of the U.S.! Of these
new infections, 63% involve people less than 25 years old.
epidemic is a recent phenomenon. Some young people have parents
who may have had multiple sexual part-ners with relative
impunity and conclude that they too are safe from disease.
However, most of these diseases were not around 20 to 30 years
ago. Prior to 1960, there were only two prevalent sexually
transmitted diseases: syphilis and gonorrhea. Both were easily
treatable with antibiotics.
sixties and seventies this relatively stable situation began to
change. For example, in 1976, chlamydia first appeared in
increasing numbers in the U.S. Chlamydia, particularly dangerous
to women, is now the most common bacterial STD in the country.
In 1981, human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV), the virus which
causes AIDS, was identified. By early 1993, between 1 and 2
million Americans were infected with HIV or AIDS, over 12
million were infected worldwide, and over 160,000 had died in
the U.S. alone. Then herpes was added to the mix. This STD now
infects 30 million people.
human papilloma virus (HPV) began a dramatic increase. This
virus can result in venereal warts and will often lead to deadly
penicillin-resistant strains of gonorrhea were present in all
fifty states, and by 1992 syphilis was at a 40-year high. As of
1993, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is almost always
caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia, was affecting 1 million new
women each year. This includes 16,000 to 20,000 teenagers. This
infection can result in pelvic pain and infertility and is the
leading cause of hospitalization for women between the ages of
15 and 55, apart from pregnancy.
inflammatory disease can result in scarred fallopian tubes which
block passage of a fertilized egg. The fertilized egg,
therefore, cannot pass on to the uterus, and the growing embryo
will cause the tube to rupture. From 1960 to 1990 there was a
400% increase in tubal pregnancies, most of which were caused by
STDs. Making matters even worse is the fact that 80% of those
infected with an STD don't know it and will unwittingly infect
their next sexual partner.
Medical Facts of STDs
is a terrible infection. In its first stage, the infected
individual may be lulled into thinking there is little wrong
since the small sore will disappear in 2 to 8 weeks. The second
and third stages are progressively worse and can eventually lead
to brain, heart, and blood vessel damage if not diagnosed and
treated. The saddest part is that syphilis is 100% curable with
penicillin, yet there is now more syphilis than in the late
1940s, and it is spreading rapidly.
a disease which only became common in the mid-1980s, infects 20
to 40% of some sexually active groups including teenagers. In
men, chlamydia can cause infertile sperm, a condition reversible
with antibiotics. In women, however, the infection is
devastating. An acute chlamydia infection in women will result
in pain, fever, and damage to female organs. A silent infection
can damage a woman's fallopian tubes without her ever knowing
it. A single episode of chlamydia PID can result in a 25% chance
of infertility. With a second infection, the chance of
infertility rises to 50%. This is double the risk of gonorrhea.
with antibiotics is not always successful. One study reported
that 18% showed a recurrence of infection within 3 weeks. As
many as 14% of teenagers do not respond to treatment, and
ultimately require a hysterectomy. It is an overwhelming burden
for an 18- or 19-year- old girl to have to face the fact that
she will never be able to bear a single child.
papilloma virus (HPV) is an extremely common STD. One study
reported that at the University of California, Berkeley, 46% of
the sexually active coeds were infected with HPV. Another study
reported that 38% of the sexually active females between the
ages of 13 and 21 were infected.
the major cause of venereal warts which are extremely difficult
to treat and may require expensive procedures such as laser
surgery. HPV can result in pre-cancer or cancer of the
genitalia. By causing cancer of the cervix, this virus is
presently killing more women in this country than AIDS, or over
4,600 women in 1991. HPV can also result in painful intercourse
for years after infection even though other visible signs of
disease have disappeared.
course there is the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, the
virus that causes AIDS. The first few cases of AIDS were only
discovered in 1981; now, in the U.S. alone, there are between 1
and 2 million infected with this disease. As far as we know, all
of these people will die in the next ten to fifteen years. As of
early 1993, approximately 160,000 had already died.
In 1991 a
non-random study at the University of Texas at Austin showed
that 1 in 100 students who had blood drawn for any reason at the
university health center was HIV infected.
progress of the disease is slow for many people, all who have it
will be infected for the rest of their lives. There is no cure,
and many research-ers are beginning to despair of ever coming up
with a cure or even a vaccine (as was eventually done with
polio). In 1992, 1 in 75 men was infected with HIV and 1 in 700
women. But the number of women with AIDS is growing. In the
early years of the epidemic less than 2% of the AIDS cases were
women. Now the percentage is 12%.
Teenagers Face Greater Risks from STDs
the statistics I have mentioned is that teenagers are
particularly susceptible to STDs. This fact is alarming since
more teens are sexually active today than ever before. An entire
generation is at risk, and the saddest part about it is that
most of them are unaware of the dangers they face. Teenagers
must be given the correct information to help them realize that
saving themselves sexually until marriage is the only sure way
to stay healthy.
medical reasons for teens' high susceptibility to STDs relates
specifically to females. The cervix of a teen-age girl has a
lining (ectropion) which produces mucus that is a great growth
medium for viruses and bacteria. As a girl reaches her 20s or
has a baby, this lining is replaced with a tougher, more
resistant lining. Also during the first two years of
menstruation, 50% of the periods occur without ovulation. This
will produce a more liquid mucus which also grows bacteria and
viruses very well. A 15-year-old girl has a 1-in-8 chance of
developing pelvic inflammatory disease simply by having sex,
whereas a 24-year-old woman has only a 1- in-80 chance in the
do not always respond to antibiotic treatment for pelvic
inflammatory disease, and occasionally such teenage girls
require a hysterectomy. Infertility is an increasing problem in
our society. It is estimated that one-fourth to one-third of all
female infertility in marriage is a result of STDs.
are also more susceptible to human papilloma virus, HPV. Rates
of HPV infection in teenagers can be as high as 40%, whereas in
the adult population, the rate is less than 15%. Teenagers are
also more likely to develop precancerous growths as a result of
HPV infection than adults. These precancerous growths in
teenagers are also more likely to develop into invasive cancer
than in adults.
from the increased risk from STDs in teens, teen-age pregnancy
is also at unprecedented levels. In 1985 there were over 1
million teen-age pregnancies; 400,000 of these ended in
abortion. Abortion is not a healthy procedure for anyone to
undergo, but this is especially true for a teenager. Not getting
pregnant to begin with is far better. Oral contraceptives are
not as effective with teenagers, mainly because teens are more
apt to forget to take the pill. Over a one-year period, as many
as 9 to 18% of teenage girls using oral contraceptives become
when teenagers start having sex earlier in life, they are much
more likely to have multiple sexual partners, a behavior that
puts them at greater risk for STD. When teenagers become
sexually active before they are 18 years of age, 75% of them
will have more than 2 partners and 45% of them will have 4 or
more partners. If sexual activity begins after the 19th
birthday, only 20% will have 2 or more partners and only 1% will
have 4 or more partners. (These statistics were reported by the
Centers for Disease Control after interviewing people in their
Sex Really the Answer?
now take a hard look at the message of safe sex which is being
taught to teens at school and through the media.
people believe that if teens can be taught how to use
contraception and condoms effectively, rates of pregnancy and
STD infection will be reduced dramatically. But common sense and
statistics tell us otherwise. At Rutgers University, the rates
of infection of students with STD varied little with the form of
contraception used. For example, 35 to 44% of the sexually
active students were infected with one or more STDs whether they
used no contraceptive, oral contraceptive, the diaphragm, or
condoms. It is significant to note that condoms, the hero of the
safe sex message, provided virtually no protection from STDs.
condoms prevent HIV infection, the virus that causes AIDS? While
it is better than nothing, the bottom line is that condoms
cannot be trusted. A study from Florida looked at couples in
which one partner was HIV positive and the other was negative.
They used condoms as protection during intercourse. After 18
months, 17% of the previously uninfected partners were HIV
positive. That is a one-in-six chance, the same as in Russian
do not even provide 100% protection for the purpose for which
they were designed: prevention of pregnancy. One study from the
School of Medicine Family Planning Clinic at the University of
Pennsylvania reported that 25% of patients using condoms as
birth control conceived over a one-year period. Other studies
indicate that the rate of accidental pregnancy from
condom-protected intercourse is around 15% with married couples
and 36% for unmarried couples.
are inherently untrustworthy. The FDA allows as many as one in
250 to be defective. Condoms are often stored and shipped at
unsafe temperatures which weakens the integrity of the latex
rubber causing breaks and ruptures. Condoms will break 8% of the
time and slip off 7% of the time. There are just so many
pitfalls in condom use that you just can't expect immature
teenagers to use them properly. And even if they do, they are
still at risk.
are beginning to show that school-based sex education that
includes condom use as the central message, does not work. A
study in a major pediatric journal concluded that the available
evidence indicates that there is little or no effect from
school-based sex- education on sexual activity, contraception,
or teenage pregnancy.(2) This study evaluated programs that
emphasized condoms. In addition, programs that emphasize condoms
tend to give a false sense of security to sexually active
students and make those students who are not having sex feel
of damages from unmarried adolescent sexual activity is long
indeed. Apart from the threat to physical health and fertility,
there is damage to family relationships, self-confidence and
emotional health, spiritual health, and future economic
opportunities due to unplanned pregnancy. Condom-based sex-
education does not work.
Sex for Marriage is the Common Sense Solution.
epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases is running rampant in
this country and around the world. Diseases such as chlamydia,
human papilloma virus, herpes, hepatitis B, trichomonas, pelvic
inflammatory disease, and AIDS have joined syphilis and
gonorrhea in just the last 30 years. There is no question that
the fruits of the sexual revolution have been devastating. I
have also shown how our teen-agers are at a greater risk for
sexually transmitted diseases than are adults and that
sex-education based on condom use is ineffective and misleading.
There is only one message that offers health, hope, and joy to
today's teenagers. We need to teach single people to save
intercourse for marriage.
Sex is a
wonderful gift, but if uncontrolled, it has a great capacity for
evil as well as good. Our bodies were not made to have multiple
sex partners. Almost all risk of STD and out-of-wedlock
pregnancy can be avoided by saving intercourse for marriage. And
it can be done.
Statistics show clearly that in schools that teach a sex
education program that emphasizes saving intercourse for
marriage, the teen pregnancy rate drops dramatically in as
little as one year. In San Marcos, California, a high school
used a federally funded program ("Teen Aid") which emphasizes
saving intercourse until marriage. Before using the program
there were 147 pregnancies out of 600 girls. Within two years,
the number of pregnancies plummeted to 20 out of 600 girls.(3)
As of 1992, San Marcos was still using this program and was
still satisfied with it. In Jessup Georgia, upon instituting the
"Sex Respect" program, the number of pregnancies out of 340
female students dropped from 17 to 13 to 11 to 3 in successive
intercourse until teens are older is not a naive proposal. Over
50% of the females and 40% of the males between 15 and 19 have
not had intercourse. They are living proof that teens can
control their sexual desires. Of those who had at least one
sexual experience, 20% had sex in the past but were not
currently sexually active. Therefore, a minority of students are
Condom-based sex-education programs basically teach teen-agers
that they cannot control their sexual desires, and that they
must use condoms to protect themselves. It is not a big leap
from people being unable to control their sexual desires to
being unable to control their hate, greed, anger, and prejudice.
This is not the right message for our teenagers!
are willing to discipline themselves for things they want and
desire and are convinced are beneficial. Girls get up early for
drill team practice. Boys train in the off-season with weights
to get stronger for athletic competition. Our teens can be
disciplined in their sexual lives if they have the right
information to make logical choices.
sex for marriage is the common sense solution. In fact, it is
the only solution. We don't hesitate to tell our kids not to use
drugs or marijuana, and most do not. We tell our kids it's
unhealthy to smoke, and most do not.
normal and healthy not to have sex until marriage. STDs are so
common that it is not an exaggeration to say that most people
who regularly have sex outside of marriage will contract a
sexually transmitted disease. Our sexuality should blossom
within the confines of a mutually faithful monogamous
relationship. We need to reeducate our kids not just in what is
healthy, but in what is right.
Medical Institute for Sexual Health, P.O. Box 4919, Austin, TX
Stout, et al., Pediatrics, 1989, 83:376-79.
3. Joe S.
McIlhaney, Jr., Safe Sex (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House,
1991), p. 86.
About the Author
Raymond G. Bohlin is president of Probe
Ministries. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois
(B.S., zoology), North Texas State University (M.S., population
genetics), and the University of Texas at Dallas (M.S., Ph.D.,
molecular biology). He is the co-author of the book The
Natural Limits to Biological Change, served as general
editor of Creation, Evolution and Modern Science,
co-author of Basic Questions on Genetics, Stem Cell Research
and Cloning (The BioBasics Series), and has
published numerous journal articles. Dr. Bohlin was named a
1997-98 and 2000 Research Fellow of the Discovery Institute's
Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture.
Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist
the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian
worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for
Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games
conferences for youth and adults, our 3 1/2 minute daily radio
program, and our extensive Web site at
information about Probe's materials and ministry may be obtained
by contacting us at:
1900 Firman Drive, Suite 100
Richardson, TX 75081
(972) 480-0240 FAX (972) 644-9664