Youths in Arizona Drug Rehab Programs Having Sex Without Condoms, At High Risk for HIV, STDs, Pregnancy, Study Says
A study that examined the sexual histories of 400 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 who were enrolled in drug treatment programs in Southern Arizona found that 91% have engaged in sexual intercourse and reported using condoms only half of the time, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona, the Arizona Daily Star reports. Many teens are engaging in unprotected sex, which puts them at high risk for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, Sally Stevens of the university's Southwest Institute for Research on Women said yesterday during a presentation at the closing session of the U.S.-Mexico HIV/AIDS Border Conferenc in Tucson, Ariz. Of the 120 girls surveyed, 30% had been pregnant at least once by age 15, and several girls had experienced multiple pregnancies. The majority of girls reported keeping their infants, who were mainly being cared for by their grandmothers. About 30% of the girls reported having been raped by age 13 and said they began taking drugs to "cop[e]." Nearly a quarter of survey participants agreed to undergo STD testing, and nearly half tested positive for at least one disease. None of the participants tested positive for HIV. However, given the behavior observed, Stevens said that it was "critical" that the teens undergo further HIV testing (Duarte, Arizona Daily Star, 9/12). "These kids are walking time bombs. They could develop HIV at any time," she said, adding, "The drug treatment programs need additional monies to teach a curriculum on HIV/AIDS and STDs. The public schools are not doing enough" (Associated Press, 9/12). The two-day conference, which was sponsored by HRSA and attended by more than 300 health professionals from both sides of the border, focused on the effects of HIV/AIDS in communities in the United States and Mexico, as well as prevention and treatment. It was hosted by El Rio Community Health Center, a Tucson-based clinic that serves 93% of AIDS patients in Southern Arizona (Arizona Daily Star, 9/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.