Sex and the American teen

A new study finds one of every 4 teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease. And nearly half of all African American teen girls has an STD.

The most common is the virus that causes cervical cancer.

Dr. John Douglas of the CDC said the study, based on data from 2003-04, probably is indicative of current rates of infection. And the CDC’s Dr. Kevin Fenton said “screening, vaccination and other prevention strategies for sexually active women are among our highest public health priorities.”

That’s not likely to happen in Minnesota, where last year a bill to mandate vaccinations against HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer, was criticized so roundly that by the end of the session, even its sponsor was walking away from it. Opponents said vaccinating girls sends a message that it’s OK to have sex. And the state’s Health Department recommended against the vaccination mandate last month, although it said it would revisit the issue in three years.

There’s one other element to today’s survey. If 25% of America’s teen girls have a STD, at least that many have had sex. Yet, a 2006 ABC survey — highly publicized at the time — said only 19 percent of all teens surveyed say they’ve had intercourse. And that number includes both boys and girls, of course. Adding to the confusion is the fact various teens have different definitions of what constitutes “having sex,” and it’s possible with some STDs to spread them without intercourse.

Still, though the data used in each survey is from different years, it’s close enough to wonder if one of them is significantly wrong and, if so, which one?

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