Study: Half of Young Americans to Get Sex Diseases
February 25, 2004 03:55:16 AM PST , Reuters

Half of all young Americans will get a sexually transmitted disease
by the age of 25, perhaps because they are ignorant about protection
or embarrassed to ask for it, according to several reports issued on
The reports, publicized by two nonprofit sexual and youth health
groups, said there were 9 million new cases of STD among teens and
young adults aged 15 to 24 in 2000.

They said the U.S. government's policy of preferring abstinence-only
education would only increase those rates.

"For the 27 million young Americans under the age of 25 who have had
sex, the stakes are simply too high to talk only about abstinence,"
James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, said in a statement.

"Given the prevalence of STDs, young people need all the facts --
including medically accurate information on condoms."

The reports, released jointly by Advocates for Youth -- a nonprofit
group advocating for sex education, and the sexual health-oriented
Alan Guttmacher Institute, pull together information from several
different publications.

They include a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web
sites) report in the latest issue of the journal Perspectives on
Sexual and Reproductive Health, and a University of North Carolina
report based on interviews with teens and young adults.

"Approximately 18.9 million new cases of STD occurred in 2000, of
which 9.1 million (48 percent) were among persons aged 15 to 24," the
CDC report reads.

It said three diseases -- human papillomavirus or genital wart virus,
a parasitic infection called trichomoniasis and chlamydia --
accounted for 88 percent of all new cases of STDs in 15- to 24-year-
olds. Wart virus is the major cause of cervical cancer while
chlamydia can cause infertility.


The CDC report did not comment on potential causes, but the
Guttmacher Institute did.

"It is not surprising that teens and young adults contract a
disproportionate number of infections," said Guttmacher's Sharon
Camp. "Most young people are sexually active, and many are ill
equipped to prevent STDs or seek testing and treatment."

She said sex education that includes information on condoms is vital
to preventing STDs.

"Although abstaining from sexual activity is guaranteed to prevent
STDs, some adolescents and virtually all young adults will eventually
choose to have sex," Camp said.

"Before they do, they need realistic sex education that teaches them
how to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies. It is essential to have
medically accurate information about condoms and other contraceptive
methods, and guidance on how to access appropriate prevention,
testing and treatment services."

Teens 15 and older who have had sex have the highest STD rates of any
age group in the country, and the United States has the highest STD
rate of any industrialized country, according to CDC and World Health
Organization (news - web sites) figures.

The University of North Carolina report attacked federal policies
that encourage abstinence-only education.

"Abstinence is, of course, the only 100 percent effective prevention
strategy," Shawn Carney, a 17-year-old member of the UNC youth panel,
said in a statement.

"But with 70 percent of young people having sex by the age of 18, we
need to hear about more than abstinence. We need to know how to
prevent STDs when we do have sex later in life."


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