In a recent report, surgeon general David Satcher calls for school education programs that put less emphasis on abstinence and more on safe sex and disease prevention. The statistics show why. In the United States, 15 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases are reported each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; about 25 percent of these occur among teenagers. Two low-profile diseases, human papillomavirus and trichomoniasis, account for roughly two thirds of the total. Medical examination is the only sure method of diagnosis, as some sexually transmitted diseases produce no symptoms for years. Most are not fatal if treated properly, but they can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer, or pregnancy complications. Yet unprotected sex appears to be on the rise, perhaps because people are less afraid of AIDS, says Cynthia Glocker of the CDC.
Graphic is based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.