It is estimated that young people ages 15 to 24 contract nearly 50 percent of the 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases each year. Additionally, 25 percent of sexually active adolescent females have a sexually transmitted infection, according to the Center for Disease Control.
A common STI found among adolescents, chlamydia, when untreated can cause pelvic inflammatory disease—a major cause of infertility—ectopic pregnancy and chronic pain. Cases of chlamydia increased 4.7 percent during 2015-2016, according to the CDC. This is especially relevant in the southern United States, which reported the highest rate of chlamydia infections in 2016––a statistic which may very well be connected to the prevalence of abstinence-only sex education in the south.
Young adults ages 15 to 24 make up the largest percentage of HIV infections in the U.S., as well as 70 percent of gonorrhea infections and 66 percent of chlamydia cases, according to Planned Parenthood studies.
Gay and bisexual men are especially at-risk for HIV infections, as are men who are of racial or ethnic minorities, according to the Huffington Post.
The increase in STIs and STDs has had an incredibly negative impact on the public health of college students in the U.S. There are multiple cultural, behavioral and biological influences that contribute to the rise of STDs and STIs in American youth—especially on college campuses today. These forces range from structural barriers—like insufficient education or inadequate resources—to stigmas, social discomfort and shame.
The increased prevalence of STDs and STIs among adolescents may reflect multiple barriers to accessing quality prevention and management services. Such obstacles include: the lack of available funds, the lack of transportation and long wait times. Additionally, further obstacles may be a result of conflicts between clinic hours, work and school schedules, embarrassment attached to seeking STD services, methods of testing and concerns about confidentiality.
Despite any sense of awkwardness, getting tested and committing to safe sexual practices is the smartest decision one can make to protect their sexual and physical health. Confidential appointments are available on the Geneseo campus at the Lauderdale Health Center for anyone who is interested in any of the following services: gynecological exams, pap smears, birth control, emergency contraception, breast exams, complete referral service and STD/STI testing.
“Everyone deserves a sex life that is safe and healthy as well as pleasurable. Getting comfortable talking about STD testing and using protection is a good way to take care of your health and your partner’s,” Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America Leslie Kantor said in a Planned Parenthood press release on April 12, 2016. “Knowing your status is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health and take control of your sex life—and it’s easier than ever before.”
The sooner you know your status, the better you can care for your own health as well as the health of possible partners. Early identification and treatment can help to prevent the serious, lifelong health issues that could result from untreated STIs or STDs.