May 23, 2008
Mirroring national figures, rates of STDs among teenagers in Harris County have increased in recent years.
Chlamydia is the county's most reported STD, according to the Houston Department of Health and Human Services. Last year, the chlamydia rate increased to 9.3 cases per 1,000 people ages 10-19 compared with 7.4 the previous two years, data show.
Staff at Baylor College of Medicine's Teen Health Clinic say many of the teenagers they treat for STDs are uninformed. "They don't have the basic facts," said Peggy Smith, the clinic's director and professor of obstetrics at Baylor. "They don't think it's going to happen to them no matter how great the risks."
The clinic diagnosed almost 1,400 chlamydia cases in 2007 compared with around 950 cases in 2006, about a 47 percent increase. During the same period, the clinic reported gonorrhea cases rose 22 percent to 515 cases last year.
"Every year we see a gradual rise in the incidence [of STDs]," said Smith.
Lesley Launikitis, a women's health nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood's Houston teen clinic, said teenagers often underestimate their need to be tested for STDs. While some STDs have obvious symptoms, others, like chlamydia, can be asymptomatic. That means teens who are sexually active should get tested even if they do not show obvious signs of infection, she said.
In addition to basics of how STDs are transmitted, Launikitis said teens need to be taught more practical, situation-based information.