Window of opportunity to improve sexual health
Led by Yale School of Public Health professor Jeannette Ickovics, PhD and Jessica Lewis, LMFT, the Connecticut Women’s Health Project (CWHP) has learned a lot about teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). What puts teens at risk for pregnancy also puts them at risk for STIs and HIV. CWHP conducted interviews and STI testing every 6 months for an 18-month period with 203 pregant and 208 non-pregnant teens from urban health centers in New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, and Stamford. Here are some findings:
Teen engage in risky sexual behavior and contract STI's
- Teens who were diagnosed with an STI did not change their behaviors or attitudes as a result of the diagnosis.
- Pregnant teens were 2 times more likely to have an STI one year after pregnancy than non-pregnant teens.
- Young teens age 14 to 16, those who started having sex at age 14 or younger, and those who used alcohol/drugs before sex were also at higher risk for STIs.
Teens do not see their own risk for sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and pregnancy
- 81% who tested positive for STIs thought they had little or no chance of getting an STI.
- Only 30% of teens thought they were at risk for both pregnancy and STIs over the next year, even though 75% had sex within the past month.
- Reproductive health services are needed before and after pregnancy—to enhance the physical health, mental health, and social well-being of young women and their children.
- Schools, churches, and communities must further educate young women about pregnancy, STI, HIV risks, and whatyoung women can do to protect themselves.