Sexually Transmitted Infections and your Teen… My Teen?
- Katrina Hinds
Bringing your teen to the office for a routine physical can be difficult enough. She/he may be anxious, embarrassed, overwhelmed, busy or “not in the mood to have a physical.” We recognize this and do our best at Redbud Pediatrics to establish a trusting and ongoing relationship with your adolescent as she grows and develops and has ever-changing emotional and physical needs.
During these teen years, additional topics will be brought up during Well Visits. As a parent, you may find it easier to read about, discuss or at least be aware of these topics and the current screening guidelines prior to the upcoming appt. Most teens have at least some awareness of these topics due to school discussions, social media, or some other form of advanced technology widely available today.
Here we will provide answers to just one of the topics that may come up at the Adolescent Well Visit, which is sexually transmitted infection screening, formerly known as “STD”.
Are sexually transmitted infections (STI) very common in teenagers?
Nearly 50 % of sexually transmitted infections diagnosed in the U.S. occur in young people between the ages of 15-24. Most STI’s are spread by vaginal or anal sex but some are spread by skin to skin or oral-genital contact.
What tests are recommended and why?
Between the ages of 15-18 HIV testing is recommended for EVERYONE once; more often if at risk. Even if your teen has never been sexually active, a negative HIV result serves as a baseline health marker.
Syphilis screening is also recommended by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment because of the rise in cases of Syphilis in Kansas in the past few years.
Redbud Pediatricians screen for and recommend Gonorrhea and Chlamydia testing at the same time as the HIV and Syphilis testing. These tests are simple to perform, treatment is effective and serious complications can be prevented if cases are found. Yearly screening is recommended in some cases.
How are the tests performed?
HIV and Syphilis screening are done by a routine blood test. Cholesterol testing is also recommended at this age so it can be done at the same time. These can be drawn right in our office. Results are available within a few days. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia screening are done by collecting a urine sample in the office.
Wouldn’t my son or daughter know if they had some type of infection?
Infections can go unnoticed for many, many years. Infections such as Syphilis and HIV can have lifelong or life-ending consequences related to late detection. In early stages, these may have no symptoms or symptoms that are difficult to detect.
If I KNOW my adolescent has never been sexually active, do they have to have the tests done?
We do recommend that all adolescents be screened for these conditions between the ages of 15-18, regardless. While we encourage open and honest discussions between parents and teens and doctors and teens, some young people are hesitant to reveal sexual experiences or may feel certain intimate situations “don’t count.”
This testing is recommended but not mandatory at our practice. We will discuss these guidelines with you and your teen at his/her visit. Kansas law dictates that a patient 16 and older may request testing outside of his/her parent’s request. If this is the case, it is our responsibility to carry out the testing.
Further, by encouraging development of personal health responsibility and self-care, we hope to promote awareness of general medical screening guidelines that will become a part of your teen’s healthy adult life.
Katrina Hinds PA-C
References and additional reading:
Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision for Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 4th Edition. www.brightfutures.aap.org/_layouts/15/WopiFrame.aspxsourcedoc=/Bright%20Futures%20Documents/BF_Adol_Priorities_Screens.pptx&action=default&DefaultItemOpen=1
Syphilis: CDC Fact Sheet. www.cdc.gov/STD/Syphilis/STDFact-Syphilis.htm
Up To Date: Screening for Sexually Transmitted Infections. www.uptodate.com/contents/screening-for-sexually-transmitted-infections
Talking with Your Teens about Sex: Going Beyond “the Talk”. www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/protective/pdf/talking_teens.pdf
Information for Teens: Staying Healthy and Preventing STDs.