August 5, 2009

D.C. teen students to be offered STD tests

High school students in Washington, D.C., will be offered tests for sexually transmitted diseases after a program found lots of infected kids, officials said.

The pilot program, conducted last year at eight local high schools, found 13 percent of some 3,000 students tested positive for an STD, mostly gonorrhea or chlamydia, the District of Columbia health department said.

Gonorrhea and chlamydia are the two most common sexually transmitted infections in the United States.

Untreated, gonorrhea can lead to sterility and chlamydia can cause serious reproductive and other health problems with both short- and long-term consequences.

The testing program, a near copy of a Philadelphia program that began in 2002, requires students to attend a lecture about STDs, but students can opt out of providing a urine sample for the test, The Washington Post reported.

All 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia let minors older than 12 be screened for STDs without parental consent.

Other U.S. school systems performing sexually transmitted disease screenings or are preparing to begin pilot programs include New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Baltimore, the Post said.

A 2007 Washington, D.C., study found 60 percent of local high school students and 30 percent of middle school students reported having had sexual intercourse, the Post said.

Twenty percent of the high school students said they had had sex with four or more partners. Twelve percent of the middle school students said they had had three or more partners.

STDs are of particular concern to AIDS activists because they increase the risk of contracting human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.