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New Study: Half of Young People Will Contract STDs

  • Ed Vitalgiano Agape Press
  • 2004 13 May
New Study: Half of Young People Will Contract STDs

May 13, 2004

The evangelists of the sexual revolution claimed to be the instruments of liberation, who would set our culture free from the "oppressive" strictures of Judeo-Christian tradition. Now, however, such "free love" is demanding pay back, and the revolution may be enslaving its practitioners in a lifetime lived under the chains of debilitating and deadly diseases.

This is especially troubling among the nation's youth. A new study reveals that a startling number of young people are becoming infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).  Released by the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), the study revealed that, by age 25, half of all American youth will have contracted an STD. The report was published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, the organization's periodical.

The data used in the study came from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the numbers are staggering. Out of the approximately 18.9 million new STD infections reported to the CDC in 2000, 9.1 million were found in young people ages 15 to 24.

Moreover, the study said, while that age group represents only 25% of the sexually experienced population who are age 15-44, "young people acquire nearly one-half of all new STDs."

Such infections do not come cheap for the rest of the culture. A second report issued by AGI said the lifetime medical costs for treating these STDs -- just among the 15 to 24 age group -- was $6.5 billion. "The large number of infections acquired by persons aged 15-24 and the high cost per case of viral STDs, particularly HIV, create a substantial economic burden," the report said.

The health ramifications are also troubling. The consequences of STDs can all be serious, although they vary -- from possible infertility in women (chlamydia), to genital warts and cervical cancer (human papillomavirus), to eventual death (HIV).

Ongoing Debate

The alarming figures are certain to continue fueling the fires of the ongoing public policy debates concerning whether an abstinence-only or safe-sex approach is best in combating teen STDs.

AGI's recommendations of more condoms and safe-sex training for youth are no surprise: the organization was originally created as part of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and is still affiliated with that group. Planned Parenthood vehemently opposes abstinence-only education.

Pro-family groups continue to advocate abstinence as the only surefire prevention for STDs. Cindy Bailey, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Family Institute, told Family News in Focus, "We continue to tell young people and old people alike that condoms will protect them from sexually transmitted diseases or infections. That's not really true."

Others agree. In 2001, for example, representatives of the 10,000-member Physicians Consortium criticized the CDC because it had been less than up front with the public about the efficacy of condoms.

For example, the Consortium said the CDC had known for years that condoms were only 85% effective in helping prevent the spread of HIV, and that condoms offered even less protection against STDs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and genital herpes. The medical group referred to a report issued by the National Institutes of Health which found no conclusive scientific evidence that condoms prevented the transmission of most sexually transmitted diseases.

However, a young person's pledge of abstinence is not a magic bullet, either. New research by Columbia and Yale universities found that teens who pledged to remain virgins until marriage have the same STD rates as those who don't pledge abstinence. The results were presented in March at the National STD Prevention Conference in Philadelphia.

Those who advocate safe-sex education explained the results by claiming that those who pledge virginity are less likely to use condoms when they do have sex.

Abstinence promoters, however, argue that the study only indicates that teens need more support from parents and other adults so they can keep their pledges. They point to the study's upside: those who made a public pledge to abstain until marriage did, in fact, delay sex, have fewer sexual partners, and get married earlier.


Ed Vitagliano, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is news editor for AFA Journal, a monthly publication of the American Family Association.  This article appeared in the May 2004 issue.

Alan Guttmacher Institute (
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (
Minnesota Family Institute (
Physicians Consortium (

© 2004 Agape Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.