A report this week that says at least one in four teenage girls in America has a sexually transmitted disease was shocking. But countering this problem demands a broader view than merely studying the statistics.
First, teenage girls need a good dose of education, and that is particularly true among black girls, whose infection rate is closer to 50 percent. That may take some concerted public advertising to target audiences. Also, more girls should take advantage of a new vaccine that can prevent cervical cancer from the human papillomavirus, or HPV.
But the efforts also have to reach the beer and liquor industries, whose advertising and marketing campaigns often are directed at young adults and end up influencing teenagers, as well. Binge drinking has a strong correlation to irresponsible sexual behavior.
Beyond that, Americans need to redouble their efforts to strengthen family ties. Studies have shown that teenagers look to their parents for support much more than to their peers. At the least, parents ought to equip their children with an understanding of the risks associated with promiscuity.
Those risks are starkly outlined on the Web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the same agency that released the statistics on American teens and sexually transmitted diseases (www.cdc.gov/std). Chlamydia, for instance, is the most frequently reported sexually transmitted disease, but it sometimes provides no symptoms to alert an infected person. Untreated, it can result in sterility. In pregnant women, it can harm an unborn child, leading to premature birth and illnesses such as pneumonia and what is commonly known as pink eye.
Trichomoniasis is a disease that infects an estimated 7.4 million people per year, the CDC reports. Its symptoms may be mild, but it, too, can harm unborn children. It also can make women more susceptible to HIV infections. Genital herpes has infected at least 45 million Americans 12 or older. It can cause fatal infections in newborn babies, as well as painful sores in those who are infected.
Those are just a few of the facts about sexually transmitted diseases. Teenagers need to be made aware of the dangers. Most importantly, they need to be taught proper behavior by adults who possess the maturity to teach that such intimacy ought to be reserved for marriage only.