Please change your browser settings or upgrade your browser. Please forward this error screen to 107. There were certain teenagers being sexually active that the 1990s just did better — including getting the word out about the dangers of unprotected sex.
Health officials from Oregon to Georgia are ringing alarm bells about rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases, worried that kids aren’t getting the message. The CDC estimates that half of new STD infections occur among young people. Americans ages 15 to 24 contract chlamydia and gonorrhea at four times the rate of the general population, and those in their early 20s have the highest reported cases of syphilis and HIV. Laura Kann, an expert in youth risk behaviors at the CDC. Far too many kids in this country continue to be infected with HIV and continue to be at risk.
When condom-usage rates were on the upswing in the ’90s, America was in the midst of an AIDS epidemic that was claiming young lives daily. The fear of the disease gave heft to safe-sex campaigns. Like Kann, he believes complacency is a large part of the problem. For the teenagers, that fear is gone, and people are not practicing safe sex as much as they used to. Other research collected by the CDC shows that some schools aren’t hammering away at the safe-sex lessons like they once did. In Alabama, Alaska and Florida, for instance, fewer public schools are teaching teenagers how to obtain condoms and why it’s important to use condoms.
Schools have competing health issues that they’re asked to deal with, things like tobacco use, bullying, the obesity epidemic. Public institutions beyond schools have had setbacks too. Budget cuts in Oregon meant that Luedtke’s county closed its STD clinic. Even in places where there’s money and free condoms to go around, health departments haven’t necessarily seen safe sex go viral. New York City health officials are reporting that only 1 in 3 adult residents uses protection, despite years of PSAs and prophylactic handouts under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Kann says there are broader societal factors at work too, ones that disproportionately affect African-American youth. Compared with the population as a whole, their parents are less educated and have lower incomes, both factors that have been linked to sexually risky behaviors, including having unprotected sex.