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HEALTHWATCH: Sexually Transmtted Diseases among teens
Almost 50 % of US high school students are having sex.
Many of them are infected with Sexually Transmitted Diseases and don't know it.
A local doctor who treats and counsels infected teens.
He outlines the main infections teens -- and their parents -- should be concerned about
Doctor James Burns is an Adolescent Medicine Specialist at Sacred Heart Hospitals Pediatric Care Center.
He automatically screens all of his sexually active teen patients for HIV, Syphilis, Gonorrhea and Chylamidia.
The one he sees the most is not on that particular list.
"The most common sexually transmitted infection in adolescents is the Human Papilla Virus, or HPV." Also known as Genital Warts.
"Especially as you get older into the late high school, early college can be as many as 50 per cent or higher of teens who have got this virus already."
Doctor Burns recommends all of his patients -- beginning at age 11 -- get the HPV Vaccine. It's a series of three shots.
The Center for Disease Control and the Academy of American Pediatrics have the same protocol. He says the vaccine protects from a myriad of cancers and problems that lead to infertility and even death.
"Cervical cancer and fatalities from that, or warts or anus and penis cancer or actually throat cancer now we're finding."
Burns says he always talks to his patients and their parents about the merits of abstinence. But he says he's also realistic about behaviors.
"The facts remain however, 50 % of teens will have sexual activity during their teen years."
Burns says some parents worry giving the HPV Vaccine will promote teen sex. But he pleads for a longer view.
"But when they get married they might have a partner who had an indiscretion during their teen years and has the virus and they'll spread it even when married."
Doctor Burns says teens' confidentiality and treatment are both legally protected.
He urges his patients to include their parents in their treatment. As well as disclosing infection information to their partners.
"We sometimes find that they don't tell their partner."
Some good news -- Burns says he has not seen Syphilis infect his teen patients yet. But for the other common ones the outlook is grim.
"Most patients who have these infections do not know they have them."
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