Early Intervention and Healthcare Access May Decrease STIs in Young Women

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are not uncommon among adolescents. When individuals first start experimenting with sex, they often do not possess the education, resources, and communication skills necessary to ensure safe sexual activity. This increases the risk of STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV/AIDs.

Cultural differences also elevate the risk for some young women. Research suggests that black women are at nine times the risk of chlamydia and a 20-fold risk increase for gonorrhea when compared to white women. The risk of disease is also higher for Hispanic women than white women. A better understanding of sexual patterns among different cultural groups could provide important information that may improve interventions designed at decreasing risky sexual behavior.

Jacqueline C. Pflieger of the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine in Connecticut recently led a study exploring the patterns of sexual risk taking among Black, White and Hispanic young women in an effort to improve existing prevention strategies. Pflieger looked at over 7,000 young women who were part of a larger study on adolescent health and assessed sexual behaviors in the previous six years and how they predicted STIs in adulthood.

She found that there were three specific risk classes: abstainers, high risk, and moderate risk groups. The moderate risk class represented the largest number of women, but had unique differences among ethnicities. Specifically, the white women in the moderate group engaged in various types of sexual activity and had early sexual debut but did not have as many risky partners as women from the other ethnic groups. The Hispanic women in the moderate risk group were generally monogamous, but did not regularly use condoms and had high rates of high risk partners. The black women reported using condoms more than the other groups, but only one third reported using them in the previous year when they were sexually active with known risky partners.

“Thus, engagement in risky sexual behaviors with risky partners most increased the odds of having an STI across all racial/ethnic groups,” said Pflieger. She believes that these results show the need for additional education, intervention, and access to healthcare for girls from all ethnic backgrounds. Additionally, Pfleiger believes that these efforts should begin at a younger age as many of the girls in this study were already sexually active prior to being exposed to any sexual education intervention.

Reference:
Pflieger, Jacqueline C., PhD., et al. (2013). Racial/Ethnic Differences in Patterns of Sexual Risk Behavior and Rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections among Female Young Adults. American Journal of Public Health 103.5 (2013): 903-9. ProQuest.Web.

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  • zoe

    zoe

    May 22nd, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    How much younger do we have to start?
    Kindergarten?
    I am appalled by the number of really young girls who are already having sexual encounters.
    Aren’t these guys who are taking advantage of these young girls creepy, and shouldn’t we be targeting them?

  • Rhonda Green

    Rhonda Green

    May 23rd, 2013 at 4:06 AM

    I am not the only one who thinks that a lot of this prevention and intervention should start in the home, right? I know that many children closely observe the behavior of their parents and this is what they more than likely will emulate as they grow up. So if they see parents having unsafe sexual partners and encounters then it goes without saying that this is the pattern that they are also going to follow. It is very difficult to begin an intervention program with say adolescents when they have already seen far too much in the homes that is negatively influencing their choices. How to get into the homes and begin the reversal of the trend there. . . now that’s a hard one.

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