New data highlight need to emphasize STD prevention as part of a holistic approach to adolescent sexual health
For Immediate Release
Contact: Taryn Couture, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-842-4660
Washington, DC – Results of a federal survey released today show that among sexually active high school students, condom use declined from about 60 percent in 2007 to just over 50 percent in 2017. In the context of skyrocketing STD rates, this decline leaves many teens at high risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s biennial National Youth Risk Behavior Survey also shows that experiences associated with HIV and STD risk, including related to substance use, violence, and mental health, remain common among students – particularly those who consider themselves to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual, or who are unsure about their sexuality.
“Young people are already more likely to get an STD than anyone else, so seeing condom use go down among high school students is concerning to say the least,” said David Harvey, Executive Director of the National Coalition of STD Directors. “We need to do a better job addressing the factors that contribute to STD risk among teens and making sure those who are having sex know how to stay safe.”
Sexual health and STD prevention for young people are critical public health issues. Sexually active youth aged 15-24, have the highest STD rates of any age group. One in four adolescent females has an STD, and by the age of 25, half of all sexually active young people will become infected with an STD. If these infections aren’t diagnosed and treated early, the long-term health consequences can be serious and often irreversible, especially for women.
“STDs are an underrecognized and growing threat to U.S. public health,” said Harvey. “Comprehensive sex ed in school and investment in STD prevention for young people are needed now more than ever.”
STDs have been increasing year-by-year, as federal funding for STD prevention has declined. Beyond the individual health impact and significant costs to the health care system that STDs pose, some more frightening implications of these increases include increasing numbers of babies born with syphilis and the looming threat that gonorrhea will develop resistance to all antibiotics and become untreatable.
Alongside these troubling developments, the new federal survey also shows some positive trends. The percentage of students who report ever having had sex decreased significantly over the last decade, those who are having sex report fewer sexual partners, and an increasing number are using effective hormonal birth control.
“NCSD welcomes the good news about sexual risk among young people, but we are worried about what’s being left behind,” said Harvey. “As use of hormonal birth control increases, we have to make sure condoms and STD prevention remain a focus of sex ed and adolescent sexual health efforts, and we have to do a better job addressing the underlying factors that put young people – particularly LGBTQ teens – at risk.”
NCSD is a national public health membership organization representing health department STD directors, their support staff, and community-based organizations across 50 states, seven large cities, and eight US territories. We advance effective STD prevention programs and services in every community across the country. For more information, go to ncsddc.org.