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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”


Helping Teens Ward Off STDs

Screening, education are key to combatting sexually transmitted diseases, study says

By Donna Balancia
HealthScout Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthScout) -- There are some things some teens need to hear only once.

A 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.

The 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 Orleans.


The study's objective was to determine whether repeated school-based screening and treatment for chlamydia and gonorrhea would decrease the prevalence of infection among students.

Dr. 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).

Repeated 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.

An overlooked but important benefit of the study, Farley says, is that it apparently sparked a dialogue between the teens and their parents.

"We 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."

Sexually 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.


Chlamydia 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.

Adolescents 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.

Education 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.

The 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 infection.

  • Second, identification of infected persons unlikely to seek diagnostic and treatment services.
  • Third, effective diagnosis and treatment of infected persons.
  • 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.