By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Teens are usually the target of programs aimed at teaching youth how to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies, but recent studies have found that people in their 20’s are most likely to suffer the consequences of premarital sex.
In an article appearing in the Los Angeles Times, Jessica Pauline Ogilvie reports that men and women in their 20s have among the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) of any age group. In addition, seven out of 10 pregnancies occurring in women between the ages of 18-to-29 are unplanned.
“According to a poll published earlier this year by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 86 percent of unmarried people ages 18 to 29 are sexually active,” writes Ogilvie. “And though it may not be surprising that 87 percent of the same group reported that they are not ready to have kids — including 88 percent of women and 86 percent of men — their actions don’t always line up with their intentions.”
Of those polled, 90 percent said they know everything they need to know to avoid pregnancy, but almost half said they either don’t use contraception at all or do so inconsistently.
One of the problems is that people in this age group are the most likely to be uninsured. The U.S. Census Bureau has found that approximately 27 percent of people ages 18 to 34 were uninsured in 2008, the highest of any age group.
But most experts agree that the problem runs much deeper than just having access to health care.
“Many young adults also have deep-rooted — and occasionally conflicting — feelings about becoming parents,” Ogilvie writes. While most claim they’re not ready for children at this age, as many as 32 percent of those polled said they’d be “very pleased” or “a little pleased” to learn that their partner was pregnant.
Surprisingly, the percentage of men who reported that they would be pleased in the event of an unintended pregnancy was more than twice that of women.
”But whatever the reasons behind it, no amount of magical thinking will negate the fact that ambivalence about safe sex can — and does — have lasting consequences,” Ogilvie writes.
”Many common sexually transmitted infections can lead to serious health problems. Chlamydia, if left untreated, can cause infertility, and late-stage syphilis can be fatal.”
The only way to avoid these problems is by remaining abstinent until marriage, but many of the abstinence-only sex education programs supported by the Bush Administration have been defunded by President Barack Obama. So called “safe sex” programs will now receive the bulk of the funding, including a new $114.5 million teen pregnancy prevention initiative, as well as additional funds earmarked in the new health care bill.
For those young adults who are beyond school age, the National Campaign is planning to launch a new website next year that will provide information about sexual health and where to find health care providers to people in this age group.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a campaign last month called “Get Yourself Tested” which is aimed at encouraging young adults to get tested for STDs.
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