SEXUAL PRACTICES AND STIs IN TEENS By Dr Douglas Street
The teenage years are the transition years from childhood to adulthood and can be a very tumultuous time. Their bodies and minds go through significant changes, including a desire to become sexually involved, often with disastrous consequences.
Teens are very susceptible to peer pressure, and this usually peaks around age 14. They are also developing romantic feelings and see sexual involvement as a way of expressing those feelings. There is a high level of risk-taking that takes place during teenage years. This may be due to their need for stimulation, which also encourages drug abuse. Poverty and lack of paternal care and guidance - which often go hand in hand - often encourage teenage girls to get involved with older men. This makes them more likely to get sexually transmitted infections (STI).
The average age of sexual initiation is under 16 for both sexes - 13.5 years old in the case of boys. One-third of these initiations are forced in the case of girls.
Condom use is poor among teens. They are afraid to buy them, unsure of how to use them, don't like to use them (loss of pleasure), are afraid to insist on their use, and sometimes don't see the need for them (steady partner).
Forty per cent of teens did not use
a condom during their last sexual encounter. Only four per cent of teen boys use condoms consistently. Eighty-six per cent of teens acknowledge the general risks of unprotected sex, but only 13 per cent acknowledge personal risk.
Contracting an STI does seem to change sexual practices. Inadequate supervision and involvement after school facilitate sexual activity and increase the risk of contracting STIs.
Exposure to sexual situations in teens increases the risk of them developing poor relationship skills and conflict-resolution skills. Pregnant 15- to 19-year-olds are twice as likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth, and those under 15 are five times as likely. STIs are also more likely to be contracted by them and complications are more likely to develop due to their underdeveloped bodies.
One such complication, pelvic inflammatory disease, can be present without symptoms but can still cause damage to the Fallopian tubes, leading to blockage and the possibility of ectopic pregnancies.
HIV is present in one per cent of
15- to 24-year-olds. Female teens are three times as likely to have HIV as boys. Chlamydia is present in 10 per cent of 17- to 19-year-olds and trichomoniasis just as frequently as adults.
n Dr Douglas Street is a general practitioner and has private practices at Trinity Medical Centre, Trinity Mall at 3 Barnett Street in Montego Bay, and Omega Medical Centre at Plaza de Negril, Negril. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.