Texas: Ignorance Blamed for Local Rise in Teen STDs; Doctors Say Many Kids Think Oral Sex Safe
March 3, 2006
Health officials in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are concerned about a 7 percent rise in reported STDs among local teenagers. Last year, the combined number of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis cases in Collin, Dallas, Denton, Rockwall, and Tarrant counties for young people ages 15-19 reached 7,675, up from 7,176 reported infections in 2004.
Young people's level of ignorance about the consequences of sex astounds Marcene Royster, director of community services at Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas. "Some kids have a different definition of what being sexually active means. For example, some girls will engage in oral sex and say, 'Well, I'm still a virgin,'" said Royster. "But they don't realize what comes with that in terms of diseases," she said.
Dr. Laura H. Scalfano, director of adolescent medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children's Medical Center Dallas, said it is not enough to counsel teens about disease prevention.
"Remember that teenagers don't believe it will happen to them. ... If you just tell them they're going to die or be infertile, that's not as effective because they don't believe it," Scalfano said. She cited a 2004 study that showed a significant drop in the STD rate among high-risk girls when they were counseled about self-esteem, safe-sex practices, the emotional consequences of sex, and the importance of healthy relationships. Scalfano said she advises teens to use a latex condom or dental dam for any sexual contact. She also encourages them to find ways to be intimate without having sex.
Dallas Morning News
03.01.2006; Linda Stewart Ball; Frank Trejo