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KAISER PERMANENTE ON ADOLESCENT HEALTH: TEENAGERS AND STDS

 KAISER PERMANENTE ON ADOLESCENT HEALTH: TEENAGERS AND STDS
 OAKLAND, Calif., Sept. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Sixteen-year-old Dan looked cool, but inside he was extremely embarrassed. He mumbled, "Doc -- I've got something wrong 'down below.' I think I've got the clap!"
 Many teenagers today are in Dan's situation. Some have sexual relations as young as age 12. And they are developing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) at an alarming rate.
 Society's Mixed Messages
 Besides being naturally curious about sex, teenagers receive mixed messages on the subject. The advice "just say 'no'" is contradicted by sexy images in advertising, television and movies. The resulting confusion about sex isn't always resolved at home, where many parents are uncomfortable talking to their kids about sex, and some parents may have more than one sexual partner themselves.
 "Teens are also subject to a great deal of peer pressure -- often from friends who haven't had sex but fantasize a lot," says Charles Wibbelsman, M.D., chief of the Teen Clinic at Kaiser Permanente's San Francisco Medical Center.
 Compounding the problem is that cutbacks in school hours and elective programs have "left teenagers with more unstructured time on their hands before their parents get home," says Robert Bonar, M.D., chief of adolescent medicine at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Sacramento, Calif.
 The ABCs of STDs
 Some STDs, such as syphilis and gonorrhea, have been around since the time of Columbus. Newer arrivals are chlamydia, genital warts and genital herpes. The most serious STD is HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, which can cause AIDS. STDs are spread by having sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, or mouth-genital contact with someone who is infected. HIV is also spread by sharing needles.
 Symptoms of STDs
 Sometimes there are no symptoms accompanying an STD, especially in females. In Dan's case, he had a heavy discharge from his penis. Other common symptoms include unusual discharge, itching, burning, a rash on the genitals, or difficulty urinating.
 Many STDs are easy to cure, usually with prescription drugs or a shot of an antibiotic. Genital warts and herpes can recur and may cause serious health problems. And HIV is incurable.
 Asking Personal Questions
 While a shot of antibiotic would have treated Dan's immediate problem, his doctor wanted to make sure that Dan understood how to protect himself from STDs in the future. He asked Dan how often he had sex. Did he have it with girls, guys, or both? Did he use a condom -- always, or just sometimes? Did he ever have sex after using alcohol or drugs? Dan replied that he had sexual relations frequently, often with kids he hardly knew, and he didn't use condoms every time.
 Dan's doctor counseled him about safer sex, and the importance of always using condoms. He advised Dan to have an HIV test and to come back for regular checkups.
 -0- 9/29/92
 /CONTACT: Kirsten Cherry of Kaiser Permanente, 510-987-2703/ CO: Kaiser Permanente ST: California IN: HEA SU:


SM -- NYFFNS7 -- 4174 09/29/92 06:52 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Sep 29, 1992
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