Massachusetts: ABCs of STDs
August 12, 2003
Statistics from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health show that 15- to 24-year-olds have the highest rates of chlamydial and gonorrheal infection in the state, and the rate is rising. Since 1996, there has been a 53 percent increase in chlamydia and a 38 percent increase in gonorrhea among teens ages 15 to 19. In the past two years, the rates for teens younger than 15 have risen from 2 percent to 5 percent for chlamydia and from 1.7 percent to 5.5 percent for gonorrhea.Adapted from:
The rates are consistent with findings that show increased sexual activity among teens and a lack of STD awareness, said Dr. Alfred DeMaria, DPH director of communicable disease control. A study in May by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that one in five adolescents has had sex before his or her 15th birthday.
Many teens mistakenly think hormonal birth control pills, patches and injections prevent infections as well as pregnancies, according to a June study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Many young women are using birth control pills or patches rather than a physical barrier to infection, such as condoms. The majority of teens are not aware that STDs can be transmitted through oral sex, the report also found.
Oral sex has become popular among teens, and young people are not being educated about its risk factors. "Sex education has focused on harm reduction for HIV, and has taught that the risk is lower during oral sex, for HIV transmission," DeMaria said. "However, it is certainly not zero. And with other STDs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, the risk is just as high as it is for sexual intercourse."
Drugs and alcohol are other counterparts to risky sexual behavior. "Condoms are used more sparsely and kids just don't think about the repercussions," said DeMaria. "There have also been more people exchanging sex for drugs, which is obviously not helping the problem."
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
08.10.03; Yvonne Woon