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25% of Teenage Girls have an STD - What Are We Doing Wrong?

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HealthDay News Reporter Steven Reinburg relays information many of us will wince hearing: as many as one in four teenage girls have a sexually transmitted disease.

Researchers at the U.S. Center for Disease and Prevention report that of the 838 teen girls, 24.1 percent of the girls had one of five STDs and among girls who reported themselves to be sexually experienced, 37.7 percent. According to Reinburg's article, "the researchers looked for Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis, Trichomonas vaginalis, herpes simplex virus type 2 and human papillomavirus (HPV)."

Perhaps even more startling, the Gottlieb group at the USCDP found that during the year following their first sexual experience and with only one sexual partner, 19.2 percent of the girls contracted an STD.

This seems to be the final nail in the coffin for abstinence-only education. It's troubling to think of 25% of teenage girls contracting STDs that are preventable through safe sex practices and the HPV vaccination. The statistics do more than suggest the need now more than ever to focus on better sexual health education. They also suggest that many of these girls' sexual partners are not honest about admitting to having an STD.

It's a difficult conversation to have, surely, but there are really only two options if you want to engage in sexual intercourse with a partner and not risk getting an STD.

First, you can use protection. Condoms and female condoms are an effective contraceptive in preventing against getting an STD. Teenage girls need to be encouraged to demand the use of condoms before engaging in sexual intercourse. Pressure may run high for these girls not to put their sexual health first. They may get coerced into not using condoms. Families, schools and communities need to educate girls about valuing their sexual health and need to educate teenage boys about the importance of respecting women's bodies by using condoms. This goes for same-sex teenage couples as well.

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I have to agree with you on the need for more comprehensive sex education. Here at EmpowHer, we are alarmed at some of the questions we get from young women who do not understand how their bodies work. They ask such basic questions about their menstrual cycle, whether they could be pregnant or what their symptoms mean that it becomes clear they are getting none of this information at home or at school.

Without good information, they are left to learning from each other. They are still having sex, but they aren't being safe about it. And a 25% rate of STDs in teenagers is horrendous. Something needs to change.

November 25, 2009 - 8:23am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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