Posted March 12, 2008 – At least one in four teenage girls nationwide – more than 3 million teens – has a sexually transmitted disease, but the numbers are even more disturbing among Black females, says a startling new first-of-its kind study.
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The most common virus found in girls 14 to 19 years old was human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer. But Black girls had the highest rate of STDs, as nearly half the Blacks studied had at least one STD. That is compared to 20 percent among both Whites and Mexican-American teens, the study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. To most, the numbers seems "overwhelming because you're talking about nearly half of the sexually experienced teens at any one time having evidence of an STD," Dr. Margaret Blythe, an adolescent medicine specialist at Indiana University School of Medicine and head of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on adolescence, told The Associated Press.
To most, the numbers seems "overwhelming because you're talking about nearly half of the sexually experienced teens at any one time having evidence of an STD," Dr. Margaret Blythe, an adolescent medicine specialist at Indiana University School of Medicine and head of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on adolescence, told The Associated Press.
The study by CDC researcher Dr. Sara Forhan is an analysis of nationally representative data on 838 girls who participated in a 2003-04 government health survey. Teens were tested for four infections: human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer and affected 18 percent of girls studied; chlamydia, which affected 4 percent; trichomoniasis, 2.5 percent; and herpes simplex virus, 2 percent. But the study highlights what many doctors who treat teens see every day, Blythe said. Dr. John Douglas, director of the CDC's division of STD prevention, said the results are the first to examine the combined national prevalence of common sexually transmitted diseases among adolescent girls. He said the data, from 2003-04, likely reflect current rates of infection.
The results were prepared for release Tuesday at a CDC conference in Chicago on preventing sexually transmitted diseases. The numbers reflect those in previous studies, indicating that they aren't getting any better, only worse, health experts say. The disparity has existed for 20 years because Blacks tend to be poorer and have less access to health care, said Robert Cook, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Florida . The problem with the high rate of STDs, they add, is that they signal that a large number of teens are having unprotected sex. Additionally, the STDS they are contracting can lead to sterility, cancer or even AIDS, health experts say.
But the quiet and mostly unnoticed teen STDs crisis also points to the need for new measures to help teens protect themselves, health experts say. "High STD rates among young women, particularly African-American young women, are clear signs that we must continue developing ways to reach those most at risk," Douglas said.
For more on STDs, what they are and what can be done, go to BET.com’s Sex & You feature. For more on the study, click here. And for more on new approaches to this old but serious problem, read VitalSigns.