The Centers for Disease Control reports one in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease. The most common are HPV, Chlamydia and herpes. So are Arkansas teens in all this?
As director of Arkansas Childrens Hospital's Young Women's Center, Dr. Karen Kozlowski treats thousands of teen girls every year and sees STD cases every day.
"A lot of adolescents are not yet mature in all of their thinking processes and are more likely to get involved in risky behavior, which is truly part of development going through teenage years," says Kozlowski.
Kozlowski says she's only slightly surprised to learn of the CDC’s findings that one in four teen girls in the U.S. have an STD.
"If you ask the young women the appropriate questions, get the appropriate history, do the appropriate screening that's where you're going to see the incidents of STDs and I think that's largely why we've seen the jump in percentage," explains Kozlowski.
The national study tested teen girls between 14 and 19 for HPV, Chlamydia, Trichomoniasis, and genital herpes. Overall the STD rate among the girls in the study was 26 percent, which translates to more than three million girls nationwide. Here in Arkansas, the state's Health Department says of the STDs its keeps records of, Arkansas ranks 21st in the nation.
Arkansas' Health Department keeps records on Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia. Department Branch Chief of Infectious Disease Dr. James Phillips has a theory on why the national rates are so high: a lack of proper sex education.
"Other countries European countries especially their STDs among their teens is dramatically lower than the United States," says Phillips.
The rate of STDs was highest among African American teenage girls but Kozlowski points out that no one is immune to STDs.
"It doesn't matter what socioeconomic class or what ethnicity or how old they are, if they're sexually active without proper protection they're at increased risk,” says Kozlowski.
Up to 75 percent of STDs are asymptomatic, meaning people won't even know they're infected. Although asymptomatic, these diseases are problematic. HPV can cause cervical cancer and every time a woman gets an STD, it increases her chance of infertility.