May 10, 2006
A study of data from Baltimore STD clinics indicates that over the past decade there was a significant increase in the proportion of teens and young adults engaging in oral sex and, less commonly, anal sex. Dr. Emily Erbelding of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore presented the findings at the CDC-sponsored 2006 National STD Prevention Conference in Jacksonville, Fla.
Erbelding and colleagues examined the 1994 medical records of 2,598 12- to 25-year-olds and the 2004 medical records of 6,438 subjects of the same age attending Baltimore STD clinics. The researchers found that over the 10-year period, the prevalence of self-reported oral sex within the preceding 90 days doubled among males, from 16 percent to 32 percent, and more than doubled among females, from 14 percent to 38 percent. The study found an increase in anal sex among young women, "but it was a lot less common than oral sex," according to Erbelding, with the prevalence rising from 3 percent to 5.5 percent.
"Clinicians need to routinely ask their adolescent and young adult patients about the full range of sexual behaviors and educate young people in general about what the relative risks are for different types of STDs and for various sexual behaviors," Erbelding noted.
Erbelding said there may be a perception that oral sex is safer than intercourse, and it may be for some STDs. However, Erbelding stressed that oral and anal sex could result in the transmission of STDs that would not be detected in routine tests. "A urine test is not going to pick up gonorrhea or chlamydia that might have been acquired through rectal or oral sex, with gonorrhea being the more significant infection for oral sex," she said.