Talking To Teens About Safe Sex: Sexually Transmitted Infections
What’s It All About?
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are spread through sexual contact with another person who is infected. Every year approximately 4 million teens in the U.S.—about 1 in 4 sexually active teens—get STIs. Many STIs are curable. Other STIs have treatable symptoms, but cannot be cured. STIs often go untreated for 3 main reasons:
- Many STIs show no symptoms.
- Long-term diseases such as sterility, pain, and certain cancers may not appear until years after the initial infection.
- Even though STIs are among the most common type of infections in the U.S., there is often shame and embarrassment about STIs, so we don’t talk about them.
Why Does It Matter?
STIs spread easily It is common for STIs to be passed from one person to another unintentionally because the infected person had no symptoms. Most people with STIs do not know they are infected. STIs cause health problems Untreated STIs can cause serious harm, including, but not limited to sterility, pain, and stillbirths. Some STIs can cause cell changes leading to cervical cancer in women and penile cancer in men. STIs increase the spread of HIV Untreated STIs, with or without symptoms, make it easier to get other STIs, including HIV. Young women affected by STIs, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, are 2 to 5 times more vulnerable to HIV infection than women without other STIs.
What Are The Details?
- In 2002, more than 6,200 STIs were reported among Washington’s youth, 10 to 19 years old.
- The most common STIs for teens are genital warts (HPV), chlamydia, and gonorrhea.
- In Washington, rates of reported chlamydia infections are highest among girls 15 to 19 years old. In 2002, over 5,100 cases of chlamydia were reported among boys and girls in this age group.
- Studies have found that 28% to 46% of girls under 25 in the U.S. are infected with HPV.
- HPV and herpes can be spread by skin-to-skin contact.
- People can have more than one STI at a time.
- Nationally, about 40% of sexually active high school students did not use a condom at last sexual intercourse.
- About a third of adolescents 15 to 17 years old in the U.S. have engaged in oral sex, but 1-in-5 are unaware that oral sex can transmit STIs.
- Teen girls are biologically more susceptible than boys or older women to gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV.
- Nationally, half of all new HIV infections occur in those under 25.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Social and Health Services.
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