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College Students Engage in 'Risky Business,' Exposing Themselves to the
Dangers of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Wednesday, August 06, 2003 6:56 AM

Survey Reveals Nearly Seventy-Five Percent of Sexually Active College
Students Have Unprotected Sex in College

    BLUE SPRINGS, Mo., Aug. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- College students across the
country are engaging in activities that may put them at risk for contracting
serious infectious diseases, according to a national survey released today
by the Society for Adolescent Medicine (SAM). According to the survey of
college students living away from home, more than half (56 percent) have been
sexually active while at college. Of these, a majority (73 percent) reported having
unprotected sex, increasing the risk of contracting sexually transmitted
diseases (STD). The survey also revealed a low level of awareness of the
symptoms of hepatitis B -- a serious, potentially cancer-causing infection
of the liver that can be prevented through a three-shot vaccination series --
something more than a third of students polled did not know. To educate the
nearly four million teenagers that will head off to college this fall and
their parents, SAM is launching a national media awareness campaign, which
includes distribution of a free college health booklet highlighting the
importance of preventing infectious diseases through vaccination.
    "Hepatitis B is one of the only STDs that is vaccine-preventable," said
Dr. James Farrow, of SAM. "Parents may not have as much control over their
child's life once they leave home, but they can protect them through
vaccination before the school semester begins. While routine vaccination
against hepatitis B for infants has occurred since 1991, many teens born
prior to this date may have been missed. We highly recommend for those teens that
have not been vaccinated against hepatitis B to be caught up."

    Survey Shows Risky Behaviors Increase Once Students Leave the "Nest"
    Nearly all students surveyed (95 percent) agree that college students do
things on campus or with other students that they would never want their
parents to know about. Additionally, more than half (52 percent) admit that
they would never have participated in some of these activities if they were
living at home while attending college.
    Furthermore, although one in five college students knows someone who has
contracted an STD while attending college, 68 percent of those students who
have had unprotected sex while in college do not believe they are at risk
for contracting an STD. In fact, almost half of all sexually active students
(49 percent) have never been tested for one.

    Students Put Themselves at Risk for Contracting Hepatitis B

    Hepatitis B can be spread not only through sexual activity, but also
through body piercings, tattooing, sharing a razor or toothbrush, and
contact sports. According to survey findings, these are all common practices among
college students. If a contaminated needle is unknowingly used to apply a
tattoo or piercing, adolescents and young adults could put themselves at
risk for contracting hepatitis B. Similarly, if a teen uses a razor or toothbrush
borrowed from a contaminated individual, he or she could become infected
with hepatitis B. Forty percent of college students either have a tattoo or body
piercing or are likely to get one before they graduate. In addition,
one-third of college students admitted to sharing either a razor or toothbrush with a
roommate, partner or friend, also putting them at risk for contracting the
    While many students put themselves at risk for contracting hepatitis B,
survey results underscore that a lot of college students are not well
informed on how to protect themselves through vaccination. Almost all (92 percent) of
the students surveyed have heard of hepatitis B; however, more than half
(52 percent) either weren't protected through vaccination or didn't know if
they were protected against it.

    SAM Arms Parents with Tools and Information to Protect Their Children

    In an effort to educate parents about the ways they can protect their
children before sending them off to college, SAM has developed a free health
booklet written by Dr. Lawrence Neinstein, a leading specialist in
adolescent healthcare, with a commentary by Helen Johnson, parenting expert and
well-known co-author of Don't Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money: The
Essential Parenting Guide to the College Years. The booklet includes
information on the potential health and lifestyle risks that teenagers might
encounter in college, while also providing tips and advice on what parents
can do to feel more secure and involved in their child's well being.
    The health booklet entitled, The Healthy Student: A Parent's Guide to
Preparing Teens for the College Years, is available electronically on the
SAM web site at

    About Hepatitis B
    Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening viral liver disease. In
fact, the hepatitis B virus can be 100 times more infectious than HIV in
some settings. Over one million people in the United States are chronically
infected with hepatitis B. The disease is spread by contact with body fluids
of an infected person, such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and saliva.
It can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver
cancer, liver failure, and death.

    About the Society for Adolescent Medicine

    The Society for Adolescent Medicine (SAM), founded in 1968, is the only
multidisciplinary professional healthcare organization in the United States
exclusively committed to improving the physical and psychosocial health and
well-being of adolescents. Its principal activities include the development,
synthesis, and dissemination of scientific and scholarly knowledge unique to
the health needs of adolescents; professional development of students,
trainees, and practicing clinicians around adolescent health; as well as
advocating on behalf of adolescents. Advocacy efforts are supported through
local, state, and national public and private efforts to develop
comprehensive, acute, chronic, and preventive health services for youth. The
Society publishes and disseminates scholarly information related to
adolescent health through its peer-reviewed monthly Journal of Adolescent Health.
Contact SAM at 1.816.224.8010 or visit

    Survey Background
    This survey, conducted by Harris Interactive between April 24, 2003 and
May 8, 2003, was completed using an online survey among full-time college
students at four-year institutions, living away from home, aged 18 to
22 years. Those surveyed included 516 students nationally. The margin of
error was plus or minus 4.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The
survey was funded by a grant from GlaxoSmithKline.

SOURCE The Society for Adolescent Medicine
Web Site: