STD Data Come as No Surprise, Area Teenagers Say

(Jane Bell - AP)
By Laura Sessions Stepp and Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 13, 2008

Elizabeth Alderman, adolescent specialist at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, was astounded by a federal report this week showing that two out of five teenage girls who have had sex have experienced at least one sexually transmitted infection.

Lorena Granados, a junior at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax County, was not the least bit surprised.

"A lot of girls fall in love, and it doesn't seem they care about protection," she said yesterday. "It's 'What am I going to enjoy right now?' Or they'll say, 'I know he hasn't been with anybody. . . . He's clean.' Or, 'He'll stop before we go too far.' "

That same attitude shows up in doctors' offices, Alderman said yesterday.

"Kids are not comfortable disclosing what they do," she said. "Or when they do come in, every single one will tell you they or their partner are using a condom. Obviously, many are not."

The study, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, analyzed data on 838 girls ages 14 t0 19 who took part in a 2003-04 government health survey. Overall, one in four girls in the sample, which officials said was nationally representative, had a sexually transmitted disease. The teens were tested for four infections: chlamydia, trichomoniasis, herpes simplex and the human papillomavirus.

There was a big difference by race: Nearly half of the black teens had at least one STD, compared with 20 percent among whites and Mexican Americans.

About half of the teens acknowledged having sex, though studies indicate that by the time they finish the first year of college, more than two-thirds of young women have engaged in intercourse.

The report follows other studies indicating that girls today are as active sexually as boys -- and it suggests that many girls are paying a price for that.

In 2005, the CDC reported that slightly more than half of teenage girls and boys had engaged in oral sex, which carries the risk of herpes and HPV, among other infections. Still another survey disclosed this year that after 16 years of decline, the birthrate among 15- to 19-year-olds has started rising.

"When you look at the grand sweep of data, it's a rather sobering picture," said Bill Albert, deputy director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in the District.

Sobering, as in the fact that Khadijah Marrow, an eighth-grader at Thomas Johnson Middle School in Lanham, knows a friend who has had a sexually transmitted disease.

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