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Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Adolescents

Topic overview

  • Transmitted by sex: vaginal, anal, oral.
  • May not cause any symptoms.
  • Symptoms: discharge (penal, vaginal), ulcers, pain.
  • Complications: inability to impregnate, get pregnant.
  • Prevention: abstinence, safe sex, vaccination.

Sexually transmitted diseases can be spread by vaginal, anal, and oral intercourses and may not cause symptoms but be passed on to others unnoticed. Possible symptoms include penal or vaginal discharge, genital ulcers, and pain; STDs can also cause infertility. Protected sex normally decreases the risk.

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  • Sexually transmitted infection vs. STD.
  • Adolescents: risk group (D’Angelo & DiClemente, 2013).
  • Most STDs are treatable and curable.
  • Incurable: herpes, hepatitis B, HPV, HIV/AIDS.
  • Can be transmitted by non-sexual contacts.

The term “sexually transmitted infection” is often preferred to STD because the latter may exclude cases in which symptoms are not manifested. Non-sexual contacts through which STDs can be transmitted include contacting infected blood (e.g. by unsafe injection) or tissues, breastfeeding, and childbirth.

An overview of the risk factor

  • Unprotected sex, promiscuity (D’Angelo & DiClemente, 2013).
  • Drug abuse, unsafe drug use practices.
  • Lack of proper vaccination (e.g. hepatitis C).
  • Poor sex education, lack of knowledge.
  • Sexting (Benotsch, Snipes, Martin, & Bull, 2013).

Having sex without condoms, having many sexual partners, using intravenous drugs, and not being vaccinated or properly educated on safer sex practices are all risks of contracting STDs. Also, a recent study has shown that sexting (sending sexually explicit text messages) is highly correlated with high-risk sexual behaviors leading to becoming infected with STDs.

Contributing factors

  • High-risk sexual behaviors: unprotected, multiple partners.
  • Not reporting STDs: shaming and stigmatization.
  • Early initiation of sexually active lifestyle.
  • Tabooing sexual topics in families, schools.
  • Substance abuse and insanitary restroom conditions.

The younger an adolescent is when he or she initiates sexual life, the higher the risks of contracting STDs are. Not reporting STDs, unwillingness to discuss sexual topics openly with parents or educators, and substance abuse contribute to the spread of STDs. Although it is very unlikely, STDs can be contracted in insanitary public restrooms.

Prevalence of the health risk (meaningful data) (Statistics)

  • 20 million new cases annually in the US (“CDC fact sheet,” 2016).
  • Young people: half of all new STDs.
  • Behavioral, biological, and cultural reasons.
  • 25-40 percent of US teenage girls have STDs.
  • 50,000 Americans contract HIV annually.

Out of 20 million new STDs in the United States, one-half will be contracted by young people, including adolescents, because their organisms are more susceptible, and their behaviors often present more risks. The STD that is associated with mortality more than other ones is HIV.

Signs and symptoms of an STD

  • May have no symptoms at all.
  • Vaginal or penile discharge.
  • Fluids of various composition and color.
  • Ulcers on or around the genitals.
  • Pelvic pain and burning urination.

As it was mentioned, there can be no signs or symptoms, which is why screening and testing are necessary. The most common symptoms include vaginal or penile discharge (clear, white, yellow, or green; thick or watery; normally sticky), genital ulcers, pain in the area of the pelvis, and discomfort while urinating.

Explain your role with the issue as a health care practitioner/advocate

  • Educating on sexual practices and behaviors.
  • Explaining the concept of safer sex.
  • Listing risk factors and contributing factors.
  • Describing relevant signs and symptoms.
  • Emphasizing risks associated with adolescent individuals.

The role of a health care practitioner is primarily educative, as he or she should explain risks associated with STDs and recommend safer sex practices, i.e. the use of protection (condoms) and having fewer sexual partners. Practitioners should also describe symptoms and emphasize the relevance of safer sex education to adolescents specifically.

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Ways to identify a problem and address the issue

  • Using facility screening and STDs statistics.
  • Addressing vulnerable adolescent population groups specifically.
  • Vulnerability: substance abuse, early sexual life.
  • Community-based awareness and prevention programs, campaigns.
  • Vaccination, free condom distribution, testing promotion.

Based on statistics for a particular area collected by health care facilities, practitioners can initiate awareness and prevention programs, especially among vulnerable adolescent groups (substance use and early initiation of sexual life). Also, individuals should be encouraged to get tested and should have access to free condoms.

Present an activity or project or exercise for the audience to engage in related to the topic

  • Safer sex quiz: knowledge and practices.
  • Multiple-choice questions and true/false questions.
  • Supplementing the quiz with educational materials.
  • Individual and classroom sessions with adolescents.
  • Evaluating and providing feedback to respondents.

As an exercise, practitioners can administer a safer sex quiz for adolescents, whether individually or for whole groups. The targets will demonstrate their knowledge of safer sex practices, and educational materials will be supplied to fill in any gaps.

Help and support resources in Miami Florida

  • Test Miami: education, testing, free condoms.
  • STD Clinic and Field Services: support.
  • STDAware: testing, 28 labs, fast results.
  • Florida herpes dating and support groups.
  • Miami HIV support groups: community center.

Miami has a variety of relevant support resources and services. Adolescents can get tested in various facilities, receive free condoms, and attend support groups specific to particular STDs. Also, dating groups for people who have STDs are established, and their contacts can be easily found online.


  • Risks factors associated with different STDs.
  • Signs and symptoms (or their absence).
  • Educative role of health care practitioners.
  • Raising awareness and promoting safer sex.
  • Support services and resources in specific areas.

Overall, STDs are a serious issue, and adolescents are particularly vulnerable. Health care practitioners should provide proper education on safer sex and promote safer sex behaviors, e.g. by arranging free condom distribution. In Miami, various support resources are available, including testing facilities, support groups, and safer sex promotion initiatives.


Benotsch, E. G., Snipes, D. J., Martin, A. M., & Bull, S. S. (2013). Sexting, substance use, and sexual risk behavior in young adults. Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(3), 307-313.

CDC fact sheet: Information for teens and young adults: Staying healthy and preventing STDs. (2016). Web.

D’Angelo, L. J., & DiClemente, R. J. (2013). Sexually transmitted diseases including human immunodeficiency virus infection. In R. J. DiClemente, W. B. Hansen, & L. E. Ponton (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent health risk behavior (pp. 333-368). New York, NY: Springer Science+Business Media.

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StudyCorgi. (2020, November 19). Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Adolescents. Retrieved from


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