Less Sex, More Disease: The Rise Of STDs In American Teens, Despite Lowered Sex Rate

American teens are having less sex. Unfortunately, sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise.

Doesn’t make sense, right? Well, according to a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, oral sex is the cause of the spike in STDs and STIs (sexually transmitted illnesses). Although the number of teens ages 15-19 having oral sex is down slightly from five years ago, many teens reportedly don’t see the risk in oral sex. No penetration, no risk, right? Wrong.

According to the report, teens are misinformed about the effects of oral sex: “You can’t get pregnant through oral sex, so they think it’s safe,” says ob-gyn Dr. Lauren Hyman, who practices in West Hills, CA. “They don’t take into consideration all the sexually transmitted infections that can be acquired.” Hyman specializes in teen sex education.

The CDC’s reports – released last week – found that 42 percent of female teens have had oral sex. Over the last 25 years, the “number of teens who’ve had intercourse decreased from 51 percent to 43 percent, and condom use dramatically increased.” Despite this decrease, about half of all STIs occur from ages 15-24. The major problem, according to Hyman, is that teens are not “putting condoms on soon enough.” She adds, “The barrier method needs to be put in place before there is skin to skin contact, or any pre-ejaculation occurs.”

While the risk of STIs, including HIV, is lower for oral sex than for intercourse, the report states that “several studies have documented that oral sex can transmit certain STIs, including chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea and syphilis.” Oral sex can also spread HPV, which is spread by skin to skin contact. The virus that can cause cervical cancer has also recently been found in throat and oral cancers. This leads experts to believe that oral sex can also lead to HPV.