Study Shows Girls At Greater Risk Of STDs

Mike Wendling | London Bureau Chief | Thursday, October 03, 2002

Study Shows Girls At Greater Risk Of STDs

London (CNSNews.com) - A study released Thursday indicates that young teenage girls who attend sexual health clinics are more likely to have a sexually transmitted infection than older women.

The British study, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, focused on women and girls who visited a London clinic during March and October 1998. Researchers found that patients aged 16 or under were three times as likely to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) than those older than 16.

More than 140 girls aged 16 or under visited the clinic during that time, and nearly two-thirds had an STD.

Researchers stressed that the patients studied weren't typical of all teenagers and that the unnamed clinic was located in an area where STD rates were high. But the scientists called the results "depressing" and said that the study indicated that young people were having difficulty following through on "safe sex" messages.

Policy blamed

Anti-abortion groups put some of the blame on the British government's drive to make the morning-after pill available to teens in pharmacies and schools.

Last year, the government decided to make the morning-after pill available from pharmacies without a prescription, provided women answer a series of health questions. The Department of Health also has plans to provide the morning-after pill to teens through school nurses.

Pro-life charity Life called the study "alarming."

"There has been increasing evidence for some time that STDs are reaching epidemic proportions in many major cities. The implications for the reproductive health of the next generation are huge," said Rachel Heath, Life's assistant director of education.

"In an effort to reduce the teenage pregnancy rate the government relentlessly promotes the morning-after pill and now wants schools to open sex clinics where the morning-after pill and condoms are openly handed out without parental consent," Heath said.

"But this does not reduce teen pregnancy and does increase sexually transmitted infections, abortions and teen misery," she said.

Government policy was also blamed by Paul Dannon of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

"We can only look on in horror as the government throws various methods of contraception, some of them abortifacient, at the teenage pregnancy problem," Dannon said.

Atypical teens

But Melissa Dear, a spokeswoman for the London-based Family Planning Association, cautioned against reading too much into the study.

"We know that young people who visit these clinics may have all sorts of issues," she said. "These teenagers are atypical."

Dear said programs to help teens resist peer pressure to have sex are one component of better sex education.

"We do know that young people having sex before age 16 are less likely to be able to negotiate the use of contraceptives and condoms," she said. "The younger you are, the less power you have over relationships."

Dear said increasing rates of STDs in Britain may have causes stretching back years and that the results of current government programs probably can't be immediately determined.

She said several U.K. programs, including the government's Teen Pregnancy Unit, could deliver "improved sex and relationships education."

Economic research

David Paton, an economist at Nottingham University who has studied the effect of government policy on teen pregnancy rates, said the study released Thursday is consistent with his own conclusion that family planning methods don't result in less teenagers having sex or a decrease in the teen pregnancy rate.

Two things that do lead to lower rates of teen pregnancy, Paton said, are decreased poverty rates and stronger family structures.

"Family breakdown is a clear risk factor," he said. "There is no evidence that the current government policy is working."

See previous story:
Study Shows Girls At Greater Risk Of STDs
London (CNSNews.com) - A study released Thursday indicates that young teenage girls who attend sexual health clinics are more likely to have a sexually transmitted infection than older women.

The British study, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, focused on women and girls who visited a London clinic during March and October 1998. Researchers found that patients aged 16 or under were three times as likely to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) than those older than 16.

More than 140 girls aged 16 or under visited the clinic during that time, and nearly two-thirds had an STD.

Researchers stressed that the patients studied weren't typical of all teenagers and that the unnamed clinic was located in an area where STD rates were high. But the scientists called the results "depressing" and said that the study indicated that young people were having difficulty following through on "safe sex" messages.

Policy blamed

Anti-abortion groups put some of the blame on the British government's drive to make the morning-after pill available to teens in pharmacies and schools.

Last year, the government decided to make the morning-after pill available from pharmacies without a prescription, provided women answer a series of health questions. The Department of Health also has plans to provide the morning-after pill to teens through school nurses.

Pro-life charity Life called the study "alarming."

"There has been increasing evidence for some time that STDs are reaching epidemic proportions in many major cities. The implications for the reproductive health of the next generation are huge," said Rachel Heath, Life's assistant director of education.

"In an effort to reduce the teenage pregnancy rate the government relentlessly promotes the morning-after pill and now wants schools to open sex clinics where the morning-after pill and condoms are openly handed out without parental consent," Heath said.

"But this does not reduce teen pregnancy and does increase sexually transmitted infections, abortions and teen misery," she said.

Government policy was also blamed by Paul Dannon of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

"We can only look on in horror as the government throws various methods of contraception, some of them abortifacient, at the teenage pregnancy problem," Dannon said.

Atypical teens

But Melissa Dear, a spokeswoman for the London-based Family Planning Association, cautioned against reading too much into the study.

"We know that young people who visit these clinics may have all sorts of issues," she said. "These teenagers are atypical."

Dear said programs to help teens resist peer pressure to have sex are one component of better sex education.

"We do know that young people having sex before age 16 are less likely to be able to negotiate the use of contraceptives and condoms," she said. "The younger you are, the less power you have over relationships."

Dear said increasing rates of STDs in Britain may have causes stretching back years and that the results of current government programs probably can't be immediately determined.

She said several U.K. programs, including the government's Teen Pregnancy Unit, could deliver "improved sex and relationships education."

Economic research

David Paton, an economist at Nottingham University who has studied the effect of government policy on teen pregnancy rates, said the study released Thursday is consistent with his own conclusion that family planning methods don't result in less teenagers having sex or a decrease in the teen pregnancy rate.

Two things that do lead to lower rates of teen pregnancy, Paton said, are decreased poverty rates and stronger family structures.

"Family breakdown is a clear risk factor," he said. "There is no evidence that the current government policy is working."
See previous story:

Pupils To Receive Morning-After Pill -- 10/02/2002

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