In the U.S., 1 in 4 sexually active teens become infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) every year. Some common STDs are chlamydia, HPV (type 1 or 2) in the genital area, syphillis and gonnorrhea. For factsheets in English and Spanish on STDs click here.

Note from Darlene, Bill and Dr. Lee: Our office is seeing a large increase in young women and men coming in with herpes sores at the groin area, likely caused by oral contact from their partner who may have had cold sores in the past. Thus, we are seeing herpes type I (cold sores) at the groin area very often and explaining this process to teens and twenty-somethings. We are trying to inform patients of this risk as we see patients at office visits.

What should I tell my teen about STDs?

  • Sexually transmitted diseases (also known as STDs—or STIs for “sexually transmitted infections”) are infectious diseases that spread from person to person through intimate contact.
  • Most STDs are treatable, but if left untreated, some STDs can lead to long-term consequences.
  • STDs can be spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Some STDs like herpes or genital warts can be spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected area or sore.
  • Some people with STDs don’t even know that they have them. These people are in danger of passing an infection on to their sex partners without even realizing it, thus strongly encourage condoms (protection) at all times.
  • Some of the things that increase a person’s chances of getting an STD are:
    • Unprotected sex. Latex condoms are the only form of birth control that reduce your risk of getting an STD. Spermicides, diaphragms, and other birth control methods may help prevent pregnancy, but they don’t protect a person against STDs.
    • Sexual activity while under the influence. People who have sex while under the influence of substances such as marijuana, alcohol or other mind altering agents make responsbile decisions less likely.

If someone is going to have sex, the best way to reduce the chance of getting an STD is by using a condom.

  • Teens should be encouraged to see their healthcare provider on a regular basis. These visits give providers a chance to teach teens about safe sex and STDs even before the teen is engaging in sexual activity. Also, regular exams give providers more opportunities to check for STDs while they’re still in their earliest, most treatable stage.
  • HPV infections account for about half of STDs diagnosed among 15-24 year-olds each year. HPV is extremely common, often asymptomatic and generally harmless. However, certain types, if left undetected and untreated, can lead to cervical cancer. In June 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine Gardasil as safe and effective for use among girls and women aged 9-26. The vaccine prevents infection with the types of HPV most likely to lead to cervical cancer. For more information on HPV and the vaccine, click here.