Published June 27, 2008
A Pennsylvania school district has such a high number of students with sexually transmitted diseases that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stepped in to track down students at risk for HIV.
It’s estimated that 10 percent of the 3,000 middle and high school students in the Delaware Valley School District in Milford, P.A., are infected with an STD — including one confirmed case of HIV, Times Herald Record reported Friday.
On top of those figures, about two dozen teenage girls in the school system have tested positive for pregnancy.
A non-profit health clinic in Milford said they estimate more than 300 students contracted a sexually transmitted disease in the past year. Officials also told the paper students as young as 12 years old reported being sexually active.
The clinic eventually alerted the school district to the alarmingly high numbers. School officials then sent a letter home to parents on June 15.
“It was sad to see the letter,” Tara Johnson, a Milford parent with a son in middle school, told the Times Herald. “We live in the kind of district where everybody works very hard to give the appearance that everything is perfect.”
A 15-year-old girl, who will enter tenth grade in the fall at Delaware Valley, told the paper she can’t believe the news.
“That somebody in our school in northeastern Pennsylvania had HIV was just shocking,” said Rachel McKean.
Kristen Bruce, a nurse practitioner with the Milford clinic, said most of the cases were the human papillomavirus (HPV).
HPV infections are very common, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s estimated that close to 25 million people in the U.S. have HPV infections, which can cause genital warts and related lesions. Some strains of HPV are linked to cervical cancer.
Bruce told the paper she wasn’t surprised by the numbers, citing a recent CDC study that found at least one in four teenage girls nationwide, between the ages of 14 and 19, has a sexually transmitted disease.
Dr. Keith Ablow, FOX News Channel's psychiatry correspondent, said he too, was not surprised.
"Young people are desperately looking for anything that will make them feel human, as our culture plunges into the unreality of the Internet, technology and media," he said. "The easy way to try to convince yourself that you can still feel when nothing seems real is to have sex and experience pleasure and maybe even have a baby who can hold you and make you feel loved."
The Board of Education is currently revising the health curriculum, which places heavy emphasis on abstinence.
Dr. Joseph Rahimian, an infectious disease specialist at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City, said besides education, parents need to be aware of Gardasil, a cervical cancer vaccine that protects against four types of HPV.
"Regardless if you think your child is sexually active, getting the HPV vaccine is in the best long-term interest of these young girls," Rahimian said. "I think HPV was always a problem and it is often underestimated. There's no study that abstinence is a highly effective form of prevention for any of these infections."