Experts Debate Merits of School-Based Testing for STDs
WebMD News Archive
Alarmingly, the Pediatrics study found that, of those infected with
gonorrhea or chlamydia, 90% had no symptoms. Indeed, adolescents are more
likely than adults to have no symptoms of STD infection, according to the
American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Adolescents, which also reports
that of the 20 million cases of STDs reported each year, one-third occur in
school-aged youth. As many as one in four adolescents contracts an STD before
graduating from high school.
The authors concluded that incorporating STD screening into schools might
help this hard-to-reach population. And based on the drop in chlamydia
infection in boys, they say STD screening programs in schools may aid STD
Hicks writes that another thorny issue related to STD testing in schools is
having to document teen-agers' complete sexual history. He says the health care
worker who takes the sexual history has an "enormous burden to bear"
regarding the reporting of events such as rape, incest, abuse, prostitution,
and under-age sex.
But Farley says a detailed sexual history is unnecessary for most teen-agers
undergoing STD testing. In his program, only teens who test positive for an STD
have a more detailed sexual history taken, which includes identification of sex
partners and making attempts to get them treated -- as well as counseling on
safe sex and birth control.
He says his program has not encountered any cases of non-consensual sex or
abuse, but admits that it is a concern when implementing these types of
programs nationwide. "Some sort of reasonable policy needs to be put in
place that balances out all the issues," Farley tells WebMD. But issues of
what to do with sensitive information and how to report it through the proper
channels should not prevent implementation of STD screening programs for
teen-agers, he adds.
"Without programs such as this, we have many, many students out there
with infectious diseases that are serious -- and [that] potentially increase
their risk of HIV infection. So dealing with issues that involve a percentage
of those students, perhaps a small percentage, shouldn't prevent us from
implementing a program that has an overall big health benefit," Farley