STD's A Big Problem On The South Plains - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/12/08

STD's A Big Problem On The South Plains

Researchers and doctors at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) say Lubbock's teen STD rate is too high and something needs to be done about it.

Our report comes on the heels of a nationwide study which shows one in four girls, ages 10 to 19, has a sexually transmitted disease. And experts say the numbers here on the South Plains aren't any better.

The study shows the West Texas region has one of the highest Chlamydia rates among young girls in the country at 16 percent. That means one in five girls, ages 10 to 19, has Chlamydia on the South Plains. And believe it or not experts say the two main causes are overeating, which causes puberty to begin early, and a lack of proper education.

Dr. Sam Prien specializes in gynecology and obstetrics at TTHSC. He says 20 years ago puberty began around the age of 14. Today the average age for puberty is about 11 - nearly 3 to 4 years younger.

I asked, "You say puberty's coming so much earlier. Why?"

Prien said, "Basically it's a matter of nutrition. We're overeating now so we're reaching a much younger age of puberty."

In addition to that, Dr. Prien says sex education, including the dangers of unprotected sex, needs to start before students become sexually active.

"We don't necessarily need to be spelling out every step of sexual activity to say someone who's in 3rd grade. But we need to understand that individuals in the 3rd grade are 8 years old and some of them will become pubertal at that age," Dr. Prien said.

The doctor adds waiting to educate children when they are in middle school or high school does no good. By that time most of them have already engaged in sexual activity.

"The perfect scenario is keep the genie in the bottle and have them stay abstinent. The genie is out of the bottle," Dr. Prien said.

And to take it a step further, the education needs to be more strongly directed at young women because of STD's like Chlamydia.

"Chlamydia is especially a problem for young ladies. In the male partner, they will contract it but there are no symptoms to them. It's almost like no harm, no foul. For the female it does not have immediate symptoms but what it does is long term is it will scare their reproductive tract," the doctor said.

Prien adds socioeconomic status means nothing in these studies. He says STD's are found in all groups, regardless of income or background.

"We need to find something that reaches them so that they understand the problem that they are potentially creating for themselves," Dr. Prien said.

STD's like Chlamydia often have little or no warning signs. So children who are sexually active have no reason to get tested - they don't even know they have it.

 So the if you are sexually active and you're under the age of 25, doctors recommend being tested for STD's Some, including Chlamydia are easily treated with antibiotics.

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