This is an exerpt from my Parenting column on the LA edition of Examiner.com.
In an effort to curtail what is being called an “HIV epidemic”, D.C. school officials will offer tests for sexually transmitted diseases to all high school students in the coming school year, report Darryl Fears and Nelson Hernandez of the Washington Post . Last year, a pilot program conducted at eight high schools found that 13 percent of about 3,000 students tested positive for an STD–mostly gonorrhea or chlamydia, according to the D.C. Department of Health.
The results of a 2007 study by the D.C. public school system showed:
- 60 percent of high school students and 30 percent of middle school students reported having had intercourse.
- 20 percent of the high school students said they had had sex with 4 or more partners
- 12 percent of the middle school students said they had had 3 or more partners.
STDs are of particular concern to AIDS activists because they increase the risk of contracting HIV. The testing program was hailed as a positive step in the city’s effort to arrest its growing AIDS rate, which is the highest in the nation and is considered an epidemic. Half of the city’s cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea are among adolescents. “We have Third World statistics in terms of our HIV issues,” said William Lockridge, a member of the State Board of Education.
The program requires students to attend a lecture about STDs, with the choice to opt out of providing a urine sample for the test. (All 50 states and the District allow minors older than 12 to be screened for STDs without parental consent.) The tests are administered by taking groups of 15 to 20 students at a time to the restroom area; The students are given paper bags containing urine collection cups and enter bathroom stalls. Once they get in the stalls, they can choose whether or not to provide urine samples. All the students return the paper bags, so other students do not necessarily know who did or did not provide a sample. Students then provide a password and can call a week later to learn the result. If necessary, the student will receive counseling, treatment, and notification cards to inform partners of the positive diagnosis. All will be encouraged to share the results with their parents.
School systems in New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Baltimore either perform screening for sexually transmitted diseases or are preparing to begin pilot programs.