STDs in Adolescents: Are Young People at Greater Risk of Getting STDs?
Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
In a study carried out in Singapore, there was an increase in individuals aged 10 to 19 years diagnosed with Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) which peaked in 2007 (820 cases). This study found that over 90% of all adolescent Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) cases were made up of those aged 15 to 19. Though the numbers diagnosed have since declined, there was a slight increase in numbers in 2015 with 421 teens diagnosed with STDs (8% increase from the year before). The number of STDs in this age group trended down and up again in the latest data in 2018.
Adolescent Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Are young people at greater risk of getting STDs?
Adolescence is based on the latin word, adolescere or ‘to grow up’. Normal adolescent psychosocial development may be characterized by a desire for autonomy and an increase in risk-taking behaviours. These characteristics make adolescents particularly vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The reasons for adolescents being at increased risk for acquiring STDs are mainly behavioural but also in part biological. Behavioural factors associated with the acquisition of STDs mainly surround sexual practices such as inconsistent condom use and having multiple partners.
Several biological factors have been hypothesized to influence the risk of acquiring STDs in adolescents. One such factor is the immaturity of the cervix (the area that connects the uterus and vagina) which may make it easier for infections by sexually transmitted organisms such as those causing Gonorrhoea, Chlamydia and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The increased risk may also be influenced by the microbial (bacterial/viral/fungal) environment within the cervix and vagina which may be particularly variable after puberty and the first sexual experiences. This microbial environment plays an important role in immune responses.
Local experts have found that many teens simply chose to forgo using condoms despite having adequate knowledge regarding protection. They also found that a larger number of teens had sex at an early age – before they reached 16 and many had several sexual partners before reaching adulthood.
Adolescent Sexually Transmitted Diseases: What are the common STDs in teens?
The most commonly seen STD in adolescents is Chlamydia, followed by Gonorrhoea and genital warts (caused by HPV). Other STDs to note include trichomoniasis, syphilis, herpes simplex virus (HSV), mycoplasma and HIV. For the symptoms and signs of these STDs, visit www.dtapclinic.com.
How to protect youths against STDs?
Protection against STDs involves the individuals, and the availability of good access to sexual health education encompassing sex, pregnancy and STDs, as well as resources surrounding STD health and counselling services.
At the individual level, STD prevention efforts should include consistent use of barrier methods such as condoms, and keeping monogamous sexual relationships. Vaccinations are strongly encouraged and these include vaccinations against HPV and Hepatitis B.
How will I know if I have an STD?
Symptoms to look out for include abnormal discharge that may be associated with an unusual smell, colour, bleeding and increase in quantities. You may also experience pain or an itch, as well as pain on passing urine or an increase in the frequency of passing urine. You may have pain in the abdomen, pain during sexual intercourse or have painful (or painless) ulcers in the perineum. The appearance of warts either internally or outside the vagina in the perineal area is due to HPV.
Recent infections caused by hepatitis B and HIV may have more non-specific symptoms such as fever, malaise, nausea, headache and rash. This is why early testing in those who suspect that they may have an STD even without obvious symptoms such as discharge is important.
Where to get tested?
Testing can be done at several healthcare facilities that offer STD testing. Some facilities have integrative STD testing and well as comprehensive women and men’s health services.
Can it be cured?
Get an early review and diagnosis of STDs to get better and more expedient treatment outcomes. Your doctor may also provide counselling for partner testing and treatment, risk reduction advice, as well as providing vaccinations for the prevention of certain STDs.
A cure against a variety of STDs is possible and the earlier the diagnosis is made, the higher the chance of cure. To avoid re-infection, partner testing and treatment should also be done as early as possible.
This article is written by doctors at Dr Tan & Partners clinic (DTAP Clinic). Dr Tan & Partners clinic (DTAP Clinic) was established in 2005 at Robertson Walk (Singapore). A pioneer of GP plus, or “General Practice with Special Interest” model in Singapore, with an aim to provide quality healthcare for everyone.
DTAP clinic @ Robertson is an Anonymous HIV test site approved by Ministry of Health (Singapore and supported by Health Promotion Board. To encourage both local and foreigners at risk of HIV to come forth for HIV testing, without the need to provide their details, NRIC or passport, addresses and contacts numbers.