Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Boston Fights STD Epidemic by Encouraging Sex Among Youth

With infection rates of sexually transmitted diseases in Boston as much as double the national average, city agencies use new Internet social networking tools to teach sex to younger children.

-- From "Cautions for and from teens" by Stephen Smith, Boston Globe Staff 8/4/09

Alarmed by the rampant spread of sexually transmitted germs among Boston teenagers, city disease trackers will unveil a safer-sex campaign today that aims to talk to adolescents via their preferred modes of communication: Facebook, YouTube, and cable channels.

Rising rates of chlamydia, an often silent disease that can cause infertility in women, illustrate the scope of the challenge. In 2007, 1,383 Boston youths between 15 and 19 years old were diagnosed with chlamydia, a 70 percent increase since 1999. The overall rate of the infection in Boston is more than double the national average.

It is evidence, specialists speculated, of teenagers’ casual attitudes about sex, parents’ shifting attention to other children’s health concerns, and improved screening by physicians. Doctors said they regularly encounter patients who are barely old enough to drive and yet suffer the consequences of unprotected sexual activity.

. . . Chlamydia and gonorrhea, another disease transmitted through sexual activity, are more common among Boston adolescents than any other age group.

While those diseases can be treated effectively, swiftly, and cheaply with standard antibiotics, physicians fear that their spread could be a harbinger of another sexually spread disease that is vastly more expensive to treat and has the potential to kill.

"These chlamydia cases and gonorrhea cases, they’re our future HIV cases unless we intervene," said Dr. Anita Barry, top disease specialist at the Boston Public Health Commission.

In the new campaign, teenagers will do much of the talking. They are the stars, and the inspiration, for a video that provides the ABCs of what teens and doctors call STIs, sexually transmitted infections. . . . The video does not discuss abstaining from sex.

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.