Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pediatricians Should be Checking for STDs in Teens

Did you know?

Nearly 50% of all STDs occur in 15-24 year olds?

Four out of five US 18 year olds have "engaged in vaginal intercourse, oral-genital sexual activity, and/or anal intercourse."


The proportion of office visits made by 11-17 year olds to pediatricians (as opposed to other health care providers) has climbed to beyond 50%.  

These data do not overlap exactly due to age differences in the three different studies.  However, experts are inferring from this mix of data that more than ever pediatricians are in a position to be responsible for the sexual health of their teenage patients.  I would also bet that with more young adults under 26 being covered by their parents' insurance through the Affordable Care Act, these folks are also returning to their pediatricians at least up to age 21 or whenever they "graduate" and move on to internists, gynecologists, emergency rooms, free standing clinics or more often, no one.

What many parents and young people should recognize from this data is that a whole lot of sex is happening before intercourse these days.  No problem.  We told them to wait, didn't we?  We told them that they could get pregnant or HIV or other STd's, didn't we?  But what we didn't count on, maybe, or want to deny is that teenagers are crafty, inventive and sexy.  They have found new ways of being sexual and STD's are definitely transmitted this way.

What many parents and young people do not realize is that NO PELVIC EXAM is necessary to check for chlamydia and gonorrhea, the two most common STD's that we check for. The most widely used test is  a simple urine test that gets sent off to a lab.  Often providers and teens are reluctant to risk insurance companies or billers revealing that such a test was done.  Time to face reality.  Be glad if your pediatrician is screening for STDs. It probably also means that your teen has had a chat with the doctor about sex and sexuality.  And that's a good thing, for sure.

This new recommendation was published in the October issue of Pediatric News.

image from via Google images

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