I hate it when things happen when I’m out of touch. On Tuesday, March 11th, the CDC came out with a press release that 26% of US teen girls has an STD.

This headline (just like my blog post title) is being widely spread and highly freaked out over. But there’s more in the press release, and these points are not getting enough attention. The CDC further specifies that:

  • Actually, 1 in 4 teenage girls has one of the most common STDs (human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, herpes simplex virus, and trichomoniasis). That means we’re not even talking about the many other less common, but still highly problematic STDs.
  • The “average” reported rate is not evenly distributed among racial groups. African American teen girls are infected at almost 50%, while Anglo teen girls are infected at about 20%.
  • Contraceptive services and STD services are both needed to help teenage girls get all the help they need, but few receive both kinds of services (38%). But even more depressingly, that 38% may be getting very poor quality services. Ridiculously, some of these programs can claim to be “contraceptive services” and still be lacking critical information like the connection between unprotected sex and pregnancy.

This is so depressing for so many reasons. But let’s hop over the negative, and talk about ways to address the multitude of problems this press release presents.

One potential solution that the CDC recommends is for public clinics to have an express visit option for STD testing. By allowing someone access to STD testing without requiring a doctor’s presence, far more tests can be done, and far more STD diagnosis can be made. At one NYC health clinic, 4,500 more individuals were tested for STDs, and diagnosis increased by 17%. Dramatic, yes? The CDC press release did not provide enough information about this potential solution. There’s no information about who would preform the tests, who would give the results, and at what point information about healthy and safe sexuality would be passed on.

However, what clearly needs to happen above all else is comprehensive sex education for everyone. The STD rates among Europe teenagers are far, far lower than US teenagers, and it’s not due to substantially lower sex engagement.

The radical difference between racial groups STD infection rates really struck me. Sexuality education is clearly a civil rights issue. We need to start talking about it in those terms.

How do you think we should respond to the CDC results?