While youths ages 15-19 comprise 7.6 percent of Mississippi's population, in 2008 they accounted for 40.1 percent of reported chlamydia cases, 32.3 percent of gonorrhea cases, 10.5 percent of early syphilis cases, and 7.8 percent of new HIV/AIDS cases, according to state data.
"When you get STDs, it's normally also because you're having unprotected sex," said Dr. Jasmin Chapman, CEO of the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center. This can lead to HIV infection, she noted.
"It's not infrequent to get [visits for] STDs weekly, and we're there three days a week," said Kanisha Meaders, a nurse practitioner at Jim Hill High School in Jackson. With parental consent, nurses in Jackson and Hinds counties can perform wellness exams, including blood screening.
Lack of STD awareness, not using condoms, STD stigma, multiple partners, and socioeconomic factors all contribute to rising STDs among teens, said Nikki Kay, a CDC spokesperson. "It's just really important for people to know that youth are at risk and that youth continue to be disproportionately affected by STDs," Kay said.
Children whose parents talk with them about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity, said Felicia Brown-Williams, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood in Mississippi. It does not require a "big talk," she said. Instead, parents can use any available opportunity to say a little about the topic. "Opening up that conversation is going to make their child feel more comfortable about asking questions and to come to their parents because their parents have started that conversation with them," Brown-Williams said.