According to the most recent numbers, it’s a growing problem. Chlamydia rates are up 150-percent from 2007, and Gonorrhea is up 122 percent. It is young people who are most impacted. Fifty-seven percent of all new cases were diagnosed in those between the ages of 15 and 24 years old. Thirty percent of those were under the age of 19. Beltram says,” What this tells us is that people in this group are miss-informed about how the diseases are transmitted.”
She says lack of education is impacting teens in some Salt Lake neighborhoods more than others. Glendale and Rose Park had the highest rates of STD infection, but Beltran says no community is immune. “We know that West Valley, Kearns, and even the Avenues are showing high rates of infection as well.”
Research shows Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease. The bacteria can be passed during any sexual activity. “The definition of sexual activity, as far as we are concerned, is any close physical contact where sexual fluids are present.”
Beltran says in a world of technology, sexual interaction is more available than ever before. She also says teen values have changed. “Friends with benefits is a term we hear a lot, hooking up, and it doesn’t mean anything to our youth anymore. I think parents need to reinstate sexual health as a value. It’s very important that parents discuss this with their teens, so they have that opportunity to discuss what their value sets are, and try to work together with them to find common ground.”
She admits it is not easy to talk about. “It is very difficult subject matter to initiate with your teen, but it’s probably the most important discussion you can initiate.” Not talking about it, she says, will not make it go away. If a teen does get Chlamydia or another STD it can have a lifelong impact. The scars the bacteria create could prevent teens from ever becoming a parent. “This conversation with their teen is critical. It could be what changes their health outcome for the rest of their life.”
The Salt Lake Valley Health Department is having two seminars to help get the discussion going, and to answer any question parents and teens might have about STDs.
They are free of charge, and will take place in Rose Park at the Northwest Community Center at 1300 West 300 North on Tuesday, May 18th from 7pm to 9pm. The other will be held in Glendale, at the Sorenson Unity Center, at 1383 South 900 West, on Wednesday September 8th, from 6pm to 8pm.