Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Report: Half of young Americans will have an STD by age 25

Fifty percent of all young Americans will contract a sexually transmitted disease by the age of 25, according to a set of reports released Tuesday that attribute the trend to youths’ lack of knowledge about sexual health.

The reports — which feature research by investigators at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — contain the first national estimates of new infections in people ages 15 to 24 for eight common STDs.

According to the CDC report, there were 9 million new cases of STDs in Americans ages 15 to 24 in the year 2000. The three most common STDs among young people are genital warts, trichomoniasis, and chlamydia, which account for nearly 90 percent of new infections.

The newly released data is being publicized by two nonprofits — Advocates for Youth and the Allan Guttmacher Institute.

“It just emphasizes that STDs are a problem in this country,” said Bill Barker, press secretary for Advocates for Youth, which designs programs and policies encouraging sexual and reproductive health among young people.

Barker said education is key in preventing the further spread of STDs, and the government’s current preference for abstinence-only sex education programs does a disservice to young people.

“A lot of the (abstinence) programs that they do are fear- and shame-based,” Barker said. “(Teens) have no information to fall back on.”

Seventy percent of Americans are sexually active by the age of 18, Barker said. The report, however, contains no information directed specifically at youths on college campuses.

But Kenneth Papineau, Northwestern’s director of health education, said the report is still valuable because it demonstrates why sexual health is a major priority for his department.

University Health Services does not know how many students are infected with STDs because not every student is tested by on-campus staff, Papineau said. Some go to private doctors or local nonprofits for testing, he said.

Health education relies on the coordination of several different campus departments and organizations — including Women’s Health services, NU’s reproductive health educators, and other student groups — to educate students.

“Effectiveness has a lot to do with who’s delivering the message,” said Papineau, adding that programs focus on relationships and safe sex.

Students can pick up literature on different health topics at Norris University Center and Searle Student Health Center, Papineau said. The department also does presentations and seminars on sexual health topics throughout the year.

His department distributes about 8,000 “personal health survival kits” to students each year, Papineau said. The kits contain condoms, lubricant, mints and information about sexual health.

Still, challenges exist for health educators. Getting students to pay attention to the issue is difficult, Papineau said.

“Students at Northwestern have so many commitments, so many obligations, so many interests, that to take a moment out of your … schedule for self-reflection can be really challenging,” he said.

Although most students learned about HIV/AIDS in school, Papineau said they tend to know little about the more common STDs, such as genital warts and herpes.

Tamika Bailey, president of NU’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Club, said her organization’s members also face challenges in trying to educate their peers about the prevention of STDs.

“Apathy — that’s our biggest problem,” said Bailey, a Weinberg sophomore. “A lot of people have the mentality, ‘This doesn’t affect me.'”

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Report: Half of young Americans will have an STD by age 25