December 6, 2000
The study found that among high school students who had received a routine check-up during the previous year, only 42.8 percent of females and 26.4 percent of males had discussed STD or pregnancy prevention with their health care provider. The study, authored by CDC researcher Gale Burstein and colleagues, was based on data from CDC's 1999 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a nationally representative survey of 15,349 high school students.
"Many health care providers are missing important opportunities to provide STD and pregnancy prevention counseling to youth," said Helene Gayle, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC's National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHSTP). "Many teens are sexually active and STDs remain a serious threat to their health. Comprehensive health education in schools, communities, and homes needs to be supplemented with communication between doctors and their teen patients about STD and pregnancy prevention."
The CDC study identified demographic and behavioral characteristics that were associated with discussions about STDs and pregnancy prevention during routine check-ups. Not surprisingly, both male and female high school students were more likely to have these discussions if they were sexually experienced, and female students ages 17 or older were more likely to have the discussions than were female students ages 14 or younger.
Teenagers remain at high risk for STD infection. By the twelfth grade, 65 percent of high school students have ever had sexual intercourse, and one in five has had four or more sexual partners. Teens account for a significant proportion of the 15 million STD infections in the United States each year. Forty percent of chlamydia cases are reported among young people age 15 to 19, females in that age group also have the highest rates of gonorrhea. Many STDs can cause serious health problems -- pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and increase risk for HIV transmission -- if they are not detected and treated.