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About AIDS

Teen Girls, Ignorance, and Sexually Transmitted Disease

By Sandy Bartlett, November 19, 1999, Columns

It is axiomatic that information helps people avoid disease. Ergo, teen girls with inadequate sexual health knowledge stand a much higher chance of getting sexually transmitted infections - and then often don't know what to do about them.

In a recent study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed a high level of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among sexually active, urban teenage girls. On their first clinic visit, 40% were infected with some STD, yet 87% of these had no symptoms. Predictably, chlamydia was the most common, followed by herpes simplex virus and gonorrhea. These figures clearly point to the benefits of STD screening for sexually active teens. (For details, see The Journal of Infectious Diseases, Nov '99.)

In a parallel vein, a new Kaiser Family Foundation study shows that teens need reliable information about preventing pregnancy and STDs. In their survey, 51% said they wouldn't know where to get an STD test, and 46% didn't know about obtaining birth control pills. (For details, see the Kaiser web site at

Knowledge equals empowerment in most areas of our lives. For teens, knowledge of sexual matters could enable them to make safer choices, or failing that, at least know how to get assistance when their poorer choices go awry.

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