Most high school students undergoing routine physical examinations do
not talk to their health care practitioner about preventing sexually transmitted
diseases (STDs) or pregnancy, according to a CDC study from the National
STD Prevention Conference. The findings suggest
that a greater effort is needed to encourage health care providers to talk with teenage patients about STD and pregnancy prevention.
The study found that among high school students who had received a routine check-up
during the previous year, only 42.8 percent of females and 26.4 percent of males had
discussed STD or pregnancy prevention with their health care provider. The study,
authored by CDC researcher Gale Burstein and colleagues, was based on data from
CDCís 1999 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a nationally representative survey of 15,349
high school students.
"Many health care providers are missing important opportunities to provide STD
and pregnancy prevention counseling to youth," said Helene Gayle, M.D., M.P.H.,
director of CDCís National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHSTP).
"Many teens are sexually active and STDs remain a serious threat to their health.
Comprehensive health education in schools, communities and homes needs to be
supplemented with communication between doctors and their teen patients about STD and
The CDC study identified demographic and behavioral characteristics that were
associated with discussions about STDs and pregnancy prevention during routine
check-ups. Not surprisingly, both male and female high school students were more
likely to have these discussions if they were sexually experienced, and female
students ages 17 or older were more likely to have the discussions than were female
students ages 14 or younger.
Teenagers remain at high risk for STD infection. By the twelfth grade, 65 percent
of high school students have had sexual intercourse, and one in five has had four
or more sexual partners. Teens account for a significant proportion of the 15 million
STD infections in the United States each year. Forty percent of chlamydia cases are
reported among young people age 15 to 19, females in that age group also have the
highest rates of gonorrhea. Many STDs can cause serious health problems Ė pelvic
inflammatory disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy and increase risk for HIV
transmission Ė if they are not detected and treated.
CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and
injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical
health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local,
national and international organizations.
CDCís STD Program provides national leadership through research, policy
development, and support of effective services to prevent all sexually transmitted
diseases and their complications. To accomplish this goal, CDC provides funding and
guidance to state and local public health departments and community based
organizations to track the course of STD epidemics, raise awareness of STDs, and to
design, implement, and evaluate prevention and treatment programs.