Thursday, March 28th, 2013
The vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer among other ailments, is in the news again after a survey published in the journal Pediatrics announced that the overwhelming majority of girls have not received the vaccine despite the urging of major medical groups. The New York Times has more:
Just 35 percent of girls 13 to 17 have received a full course of the vaccine, which inoculates against the strains of human papillomavirus that can cause cervical cancer, according to 2011 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And a study in Pediatrics this month, also based on C.D.C. data, says the intent to vaccinate is declining: 44 percent of parents in 2010 said they did not intend to vaccinate, up from 40 percent in 2008.
Alarmed by the stubbornly low rates, doctors and federal health officials are brainstorming about how to get more children vaccinated.
“Behind these numbers are people who will develop cervical cancer that could have been prevented,” said Dr. Bruce Gellin, director of the National Vaccine Program Office at the Department of Health and Human Services. At a meeting in Washington last month, federal and local officials, doctors and other health workers explored ways to make the shots more accessible. Some suggested giving the first of the three doses required to complete the vaccine at a doctor’s office and the other two at schools or pharmacies.
Others argued for a greater emphasis on cancer prevention, playing down the fact that the vaccine prevents a sexually transmitted disease. The STD link has put off many parents who are loath to talk about sex with their children.
Image: Girl getting a shot, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, September 18th, 2012
Teenagers who engage in “sexting,” or sending sexually explicit text messages, are 7 times more likely than their peers to be sexually active in the non-virtual world, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. Further, the study found that because sexting is a risky behavior, the practice also puts teens at higher risk for having risky sex, putting them in danger of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. From CNN:
“The same teens who are engaging in digital sex risk taking through sexting are also the same teens that are engaging in sex risk with their bodies in terms of being sexually active and not using condoms,” said lead study author Eric Rice, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work in Los Angeles.
A 2009 report from the Pew Research Center found that some teens “view sexting as a safer alternative to real life sexual activity.”
While the term ”sexting” may also include messages also sent over the Internet, this particular study looked solely at cell phone text messages and images. It was conducted via questionnaire in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Researchers surveyed 1,839 students ages 12 to 18 at random. Most were Latino or African-American. Three-quarters of those surveyed had cell phones.
“Even though a minority of teens sext – we only found 15% – but that 15% are much riskier with their physical sexual behaviors as well as their digital sexual behaviors,” says Rice.
He add that teens who reported sexting were seven times more likely to be sexually active than their peers who did not sext.
Image: Teen sending text message, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
The number of American teenagers who are having sex and exhibiting behaviors that put them at risk for sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and AIDS is declining, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced. But the CDC’s analysis of recent data suggests that cuts to school sex education programs may put this progress at risk. MSNBC.com has more:
CDC data presented on Tuesday show just 47 percent of high school students have ever had sex, down from 54 percent in 1991 and holding steady since about 2001. Much progress has been seen among black students: in 1991, 82 percent of black high school students had started having sex but this plummeted to 60 percent by 2011. Just 15 percent of all students have had more four or more sex partners, down from 19 percent in 1991.
And 60 percent of those who are sexually active used a condom, which can protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases including the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS….
The CDC’s Dr. Kevin Fenton says it’s the frank talk about sex that works. “The more comprehensive an education you provide, the better,” Fenton said in an interview. But he noted there is variation across the country, with some school districts choosing abstinence-only education while others offer a full curriculum that includes discussion of lesbian gay and transgender themes as well as how to respect one another in a relationship.
Budget cuts aren’t helping. “Data show that fewer schools provide the comprehensive HIV education needed to ensure that this trajectory continues,” Fenton said. Another barrier: socially conservative movements that reject sex education. Fenton is diplomatic when he is asked about school districts and parents who fear that sex education teaches poor morals.
“Part of what we are committed to doing is to provide evidence,” he said. “We try to make our recommendations on the best available evidence.” Studies show that a comprehensive sex education program can influence sexual behavior more than a limited approach.
Image: Condom, via Shutterstock
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