Worcester Telegram & Gazette (08.10.03) - Tuesday, August 12,
Statistics from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health
show that 15- to 24-year-olds have the highest rates of
chlamydial and gonorrheal infection in the state, and the rate
is rising. Since 1996, there has been a 53 percent increase in
chlamydia and a 38 percent increase in gonorrhea among teens
ages 15 to 19. In the past two years, the rates for teens
younger than 15 have risen from 2 percent to 5 percent for
chlamydia and from 1.7 percent to 5.5 percent for gonorrhea.
The rates are consistent with findings that show increased
sexual activity among teens and a lack of STD awareness, said
Dr. Alfred DeMaria, DPH director of communicable disease
control. A study in May by the National Campaign to Prevent
Teen Pregnancy found that one in five adolescents has had sex
before his or her 15th birthday.
Many teens mistakenly think hormonal birth control pills,
patches and injections prevent infections as well as
pregnancies, according to a June study by the Kaiser Family
Foundation. Many young women are using birth control pills or
patches rather than a physical barrier to infection, such as
condoms. The majority of teens are not aware that STDs can be
transmitted through oral sex, the report also found.
Oral sex has become popular among teens, and young people are
not being educated about its risk factors. "Sex education has
focused on harm reduction for HIV, and has taught that the
risk is lower during oral sex, for HIV transmission," DeMaria
said. "However, it is certainly not zero. And with other STDs,
such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, the risk is just as high as
it is for sexual intercourse."
Drugs and alcohol are other counterparts to risky sexual
behavior. "Condoms are used more sparsely and kids just don't
think about the repercussions," said DeMaria. "There have also
been more people exchanging sex for drugs, which is obviously
not helping the problem."