Helping Teens Ward Off STDs
Screening, education are key to combatting sexually transmitted
diseases, study says
By Donna Balancia
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthScout) -- There are some things some teens
need to hear only once.
chance for teen-agers to take a test for sexually transmitted
diseases resulted in a decline in the number of infections,
doctors and health officials in Louisiana have learned.
discovery followed a three-year study at Louisiana high
schools by the departments of public health and preventive
medicine, and medicine, Louisiana State University Medical
Center, and the Louisiana Office of Public Health, New
study's objective was to determine whether repeated
school-based screening and treatment for chlamydia and
gonorrhea would decrease the prevalence of infection among
Thomas Farley, of the Office of Public Health, led the study.
Of the participating students, 6 percent of boys and 12
percent of girls were diagnosed with chlamydia, a sexually
transmitted disease (STD).
testing showed a substantial drop in the disease after
treatment among the boys (to 3.2 percent) and a slight drop
(to 10 percent) among the girls. Farley speculates the girls
were still having sex with older boys outside of school.
overlooked but important benefit of the study, Farley says, is
that it apparently sparked a dialogue between the teens and
give the test results only to the teen-ager and it's up to him
or her to tell the parents about the results," Farley
says. "It seems there was an open dialogue in most
households about this. That's good. Because we have to face
that we, as a nation, have a problem and that is that our
teen-agers are sexually active."
transmitted diseases have a disproportionate impact on young
people, with an estimated 3 million teens infected each year,
according to the study. It appears in the December issue of Pediatrics,
the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
and gonorrhea are the most common bacterial STDs in the United
States. Contracting STDs also makes it easier to contract HIV,
Farley says, because they weaken the membranes that ward off
the deadly virus. By next year, heterosexuals will be the
highest risk group for contracting HIV, Farley says.
and young women are more susceptible to STDs than older women
because development of the cervix is incomplete and especially
sensitive to infection. Chlamydia can lead to pelvic
inflammatory disease in young women, which, left unchecked,
results in sterilization.
is the key to treating sexually transmitted diseases,
according to the Journal of the American Medical
Association. Education keeps the patients from having
unprotected sex, which is how STDs are spread.
prevention and control of STDs require five steps, according
to the AMA:
First, education of those at risk on ways to reduce the chance of
- Second, identification of infected persons
unlikely to seek diagnostic and treatment services.
- Third, effective diagnosis and treatment of
- Fourth, evaluation, treatment and counseling of
sex partners of those infected with an STD.
- Fifth, pre-exposure vaccination of persons at
risk for vaccine-preventable STDs.