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How Common Are STDs For Teens?

Published: January 27, 2016
Dear TeenHealthFX,
How common are STDs in teens? Is it something I really need to worry about if I’m going to be sexually active?
Signed: How Common Are STDs For Teens?

Dear How Common Are STDs For Teens?,

STDs are not just a concern for sexually active adults. Teens can certainly contract various STDs, so it is important for any teens and young adults who are thinking about becoming sexually active to be educated about STDs – what they are, how they are transmitted and how to best protect yourself and your partners from the transmission of STDs. As for how common STDs are among teens, the Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services presents the following statistics:

  • About 9.5 million adolescents and young adults (ages 15–24) are diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) each year.

  • An estimated four in 10 sexually active adolescent females between the ages of 14 and 19 have an STD.

  • In 2008, males accounted for an estimated 71 percent of all HIV diagnoses among adolescents aged 13–19.

Other important information presented by the Office of Adolescent Health include the following:

  • STDs are spread through sexual contact, including vaginal sex, anal sex, and oral sex.

  • Adolescents who have multiple sexual partners, have unprotected sex, or take part in other high-risk sexual behaviors are at greater risk of getting an STD.

  • Information from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study showed that among adolescent females who ever had sexual intercourse, the most common STD is human papillomavirus (HPV), followed by chlamydia, trichomoniasis, the virus most commonly associated with genital herpes, and gonorrhea.

  • There are many strains of HPV. Some strains are linked to genital warts and other strains are linked to cervical, anal, and other genital cancers.

  • Vaccines are available to help protect against getting some strains of HPV and viral hepatitis.

  • Many STDs have no signs or symptoms. The only way teens can find out for sure if they have an STD is to get tested by a medical professional. Separate tests are needed to detect most types of STDs.

  • Some STDs can be easily cured with antibiotics when caught early; others have no known cure but are treatable.

  • Left untreated, some STDs can lead to infertility, pregnancy complications, organ damage, and even death.

If you are thinking about becoming sexually active FX recommends the following:

  • Take some time to think about readiness.

  • Speak to your doctor about how to protect you or your partner from unwanted pregnancies.

  • Speak to your doctor about how to best protect yourself from transmitting STDs, including the use of condoms.

If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-5199 for an appointment with an adolescent medicine specialist or contact your local teen health center or Planned Parenthood. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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