CDC: 3.2 Million Teen Girls Have an STD

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Here's the headline that greeted me on the front page of the New York Times this morning: "Sex Infections Found in Quarter of Teenage Girls." As a future father, the news was a bit of a shot in the gut. But, while the numbers seemed high to me, apparently they're right in line with historical patterns. On its website, the Wall Street Journal says, "Teen STD Rates Cause for Concern, Not Panic." So many news sources today reported this story differently, and with varying degrees of concern, that there must be questions about what this report means, what's being done to prevent STDs in teens, and what parents and teens can do. NPR's Brenda Wilson covered this story yesterday, and will explain what it really means; and we have an M.D. to explain what is and isn't new in these numbers, and to take your questions about teens and STDs. Parents, teachers, teens... What questions do you have?



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How many boys are infected with STDs? I have read the article and have seen no mention of their rate of infection. They have to be getting from someone.

Sent by ecotopian | 2:42 PM | 3-12-2008

This seems to me like it should be a gigantic signpost to policy makers that they need to put an end outdated abstinence-only sex education, in place of preventative and safe-sex education. I wonder how the guests think that we can best use this information to influence policy makers to solve this crisis?

Sent by Aaron | 3:50 PM | 3-12-2008

I am a little disappointed that during this broadcast, the HPV vaccine was strongly encouraged (which of course is good) but there was no mention of the fact that this vaccine only protects against 4-5 dangerous strains of HPV, and there are over 100 strains. Also, the HPV epidemic seems hopeless to me because I was a virgin when I married my husband. He had sex twice before we met and used condoms both times. I found out only a few months ago that I have HPV (a strain that the vaccine would not have prevented). We both did everyhting we could to prevent this (through condoms and abstinence) and we still have it. Growing up knowing the important of abstinence is so important, but even we are getting these viruses.

Sent by Anonymous | 4:05 PM | 3-12-2008

Treating patience with herpes through anti viral drugs has made the drug companies huge profits. Our government should be pressuring these corporations to get those without access to insurance some treatment to help reduce some of the infections from spreading!

Sent by Grant | 4:29 PM | 3-12-2008

How are these statistics calculated? Why only HPV or chlamydia? What about the other diseases? crabs? Do these numbers mean that all these young girls are sexually active? (some of these diseases can be transmitted outside of sexual intercourse)
The number seems a bit high, and I would like to see the methodology used to calculate the numbers. Regardless, it shows the importance of adequate sex education - not just abstinence!!

Sent by gb | 7:49 PM | 3-12-2008

Just for the record the HPV vaccine only prevents the 4 worst strands of the virus. There are however, over 300 strands of the virus. This means that even if you are vaccinated, you can still contract the virus.

Sent by johanna wojciechowski | 10:17 AM | 3-13-2008

Americans need to focus more on promoting safe sex rather than abstinence. This program is clearly not working and children need to be prepared for the real world rather than parents living in a fantasy world.

Sent by James | 11:02 AM | 3-13-2008

I am also wondering --(with ecotopian) where are the statistics for boys? Why would the CDC do a study that only looked at infection rates of girls? Does this have something to do with the new HPV vaccine? Is this study meant to push parents into vaccinating?

Sent by Sadge | 2:32 PM | 3-13-2008

I think this study is very important, but I am so tired of the expectation that only girls should be held responsible for regular screening. If boys were expected to be tested for stis every year (the ways girls are during their recommended annual pelvic exam), maybe they'd take a little more responsibility for their part in prevention.

Sent by anonymous | 6:28 PM | 3-13-2008

In the middle ages a 16 year old, unmarried female would be an "old maid." Funny how modern, unrealistic, societal expectations about when children should have sex have not informed teen desires for sexual activity creating the discussion above. In an ideal American liberal fantasy world nobody would have sex until post graduate degrees were finished and careers were in place, and after careful consideration at age 28-35 the sex act would happen creating one child who would try not to damage the environment too much with his carbon footprint.

Sent by Sue | 10:09 AM | 3-16-2008

So, Conservatives and their abstinence education are to blame, eh? Well, what about all of the ways in which the Liberal Media and Entertainment Industry have been heavily promoting sexual promiscuity over the past decade or more? How could that possibly enter into the equation? Then again, the fact that (as I'm sure everyone would agree) "WE don't blame and criticize US, WE blame and criticize THEM" might explain a lot, like why Liberals in The Media are focused in the one particular direction that points away from their own culpability.

Sent by David | 11:34 AM | 3-17-2008

I cant figure out why people even go into libral conservitive jargon when it comes to this story. It's not up to the state to teach your children morals its about family. Parents definatly have to have talks yes multiple talks with there children about STDs or this is going to increase. Kids will always have sex but you also have to remember that condoms don't work with many different stds such as hpv or herpes so it comes down to you have to be careful who your with and keep your numbers down to a minimum.

Sent by Jen | 1:12 AM | 5-2-2008

i am a a4 year girl that wants to know more about this were could i go to find out more abaut this problem i aso have many other questions like could i get any of the std by having sex with protection???????????/

Sent by icecream | 7:28 PM | 5-7-2008

For the girl wanting more information - the Center for Disease Control ( has lots of good information. Regarding how STIs can be transmitted by 'having sex' - using the phrase 'having sex' is misleading because it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. 'Sexual contact' is a better phrase because STIs can be transmitted by skin to skin contact, bodily fluids (semen, vaginal secretions, blood, breast milk), or items that have bodily fluids on them. There are cases of a person passing an infection from one area of their body to another - without a partner involved. I am not sure what is surprising about the study - we know that 50% of 30 y.o. women and 80% of 50 y.o. women have evidence of infection with HPV. The reason that boys/men weren't included in the study is that there is no test for HPV for men. Again - the CDC has lots of great information.

Sent by Catharina Lindsey | 12:07 AM | 7-3-2008