STDs Among Adolescents

Posted on 06/23/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

Despite increased education and awareness, the rate of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in America is slowly rising. In fact, STDs cost the U.S. health care system roughly $16 billion each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Infection rates aren’t spread evenly throughout the U.S. or across different age groups. Young people between 15 and 24 represent half of all new STD cases. STD rates also vary widely by state—the state with the highest syphilis rates (Georgia) reports 47.5 times more infections than the state with the lowest prevalence (Montana).

Chlamydia, the most commonly reported STD in the U.S. for the past 20 years, often goes unnoticed because it is usually asymptomatic. However, untreated chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a condition that damages the female reproductive system and can lead to infertility. The CDC recommends that women under 25 be tested annually for chlamydia. While most people with chlamydia have no symptoms, an abnormal discharge and burning when urinating are warning signs in both sexes.

Gonorrhea was the most common STD in the U.S. until the implementation of a health initiative by the federal government in the mid-70s, which led to drastically reduced rates. Like chlamydia, gonorrhea is also often asymptomatic and can lead to PID if left untreated. Gonorrhea warning signs include burning when urinating and abnormal discharge in men and women.

Syphilis is less common than chlamydia and gonorrhea, but is potentially the most serious of the three if left untreated. Syphilis exists in a series of distinct stages and can be treated at any stage, but damage is permanent. The late stage of syphilis can take 10 to 30 years of latency to develop, but symptoms include paralysis, dementia, and blindness. The first sign of syphilis is a single painless sore on the genitals lasting 3 to 6 weeks, after which more sores and a rash appear on one or more parts of the body.

The THF can directly link the increase in adolescent STDs to music lyrics. As we continue to call out songwriters and performers for their demeaning use of sexual content, we need the support of parents and institutions to remove this vile content from the market.

That’s the message for today, more coming.