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National News

Girls, Minorities Are at High Risk for Sexual Diseases, Studies Say

May 23, 2003

STDs are quickly spreading among teenagers nationally and in Central Texas, and girls and minorities are at high risk, studies show. The statistics are so concerning to some public health experts that they are advising teens to get tested for STDs every six months. Experts are also stressing the need for better education aimed at teens.

"There are different programs that are used to educate teens. The ones that work are the ones that need to be implemented; it doesn't matter if it's abstinence-based or not," said Dr. Joe McIlhaney Jr., president of the Medical Institute in Austin. However, others say abstinence is the only way for teens to ensure they are protected. "For us to be telling kids they can have safe sex is wrong," said Patricia Sulak, director of Worth the Wait, a sex education program used in 32 Texas school districts.

Texas teens are most at risk for chlamydia and gonorrhea, but are also vulnerable to syphilis and HIV. Thirty-five percent of all chlamydia cases in Travis, Williamson, Bastrop, Caldwell and Hays counties in 2002 were teens, according to the Texas Department of Health. Girls are seven times more likely to get chlamydia than boys, and 75 percent of infected girls have no symptoms, reports CDC.

Minority teenagers are particularly vulnerable to STDs. In Texas, African-American teens led other ethnic groups in syphilis and gonorrhea cases in 2002, while Hispanic teens led all other groups in chlamydia infections. McIlhaney's group recently talked to Austin minority leaders to promote ChangeMakers, a two-day seminar that encourages STD testing for sexually active teens and teaching adults to teach teens the best ways to protect themselves.

According to CDC, nearly half of US high school students surveyed in 2001 had experienced sexual intercourse. CDC conducted the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey of 13,601 high school students from 1991 to 2001 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Back to other CDC news for May 23, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Austin American-Statesman
05.19.03; Jeffrey Gilbert

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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