Despite claiming abstinence, young adults test positive for STDs
January 3rd, 2011
08:47 AM ET

Despite claiming abstinence, young adults test positive for STDs

A new report about the sex habits of young adults has turned up a worrisome discrepancy.

Researchers tested 14,000 young men and women for the sexually transmitted diseases chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis. Among those who had an STD, 10% claimed in a large national survey that they abstained from sex.

"They were self-reporting that they hadn't had sex in the past 12 months, but they were testing positive for an STD," says Jessica Sales, a co-author of the report published Monday in the medical journal Pediatrics. Approximately half reported no history of sexual intercourse at all.

Sales, of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education at Emory University, acknowledges that some of the survey participants were "being dishonest" about their sex lives. Lying, however, doesn't fully explain the discrepancy. Some young adults may have simply forgotten that they had sex or acquired the infections before the 12-month period they were asked about in the survey.

"There is also the potential they could have actually had other forms of sexual behavior that could have led to them testing positive for an STD," Sales says. "We think it's probably a combination of all these things."

The discrepant reporting occurred equally among all young adults. There were no differences by gender, race, age or ethnicity.

Regardless of the reasons, the study authors say their findings highlight some of the ambiguity contained in self-reports of young people's sex lives. They advise health professionals to exercise caution when using such reports to examine STD risk.

"Young people receiving clinical services, whether their sexual history indicates they are recently sexual active or not, should be tested for prevalent STDs," the authors note in their report. "If pediatricians and adolescent medicine physicians do not test all young people, there are likely a substantial number of missed cases of STDs that will go undiagnosed, untreated, and spread to future sex partners."

soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. cracksmoke yo


    January 3, 2011 at 09:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. billyboi

    may have forgotten????? its called stupidity!!!!!

    January 3, 2011 at 09:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Simpleexplanation

      These STDs are mutating and adapting. maybe you can get an STD via a toilet seat or the doorknob of a bathroom.

      January 18, 2011 at 22:18 | Report abuse |
  3. Sarah in Texas

    Nice picture, CNN. This would also work for an article about anorexia in women.

    January 3, 2011 at 09:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob G

      No, that's what a normal teenage girl should look like. That's what they all looked like in the 1960's and 1970's. The anorexia backlash of the 1980's and 1990's has led to a vision of normal that now excuses obesity.

      January 3, 2011 at 10:57 | Report abuse |
    • Zee

      I totally agree with Bob G. This is a healthy size. Along with the obesity epidemic comes Slender Hate and promotion of a "new beauty" that is in all truth, quite chubby. Why do we get so worried about anorexia? We do not have an anorexia epidemic, but we do have an epidemic of overweight people who feel trapped in their fat and vent their frustration by labeling every slender woman as "too thin" in order to justify their own too large size.

      January 3, 2011 at 11:51 | Report abuse |
    • mike collins

      obviously, sarah in texas is a "big girl".

      January 3, 2011 at 15:19 | Report abuse |
    • Emmaleah

      That's a healthy teenage girl. Most teenagers really are quite a lot smaller than full-grown women.

      January 3, 2011 at 16:05 | Report abuse |
    • D

      I agree – she looks a little skeletal. I highly doubt that that's what "all teenage girls looked like" in the '60s and '70s. My grandmother, who is a skinny lady, wasn't that skinny in the '30s and '40s, and my mother and her sisters and my dad's sisters (who are beanpole-types to begin with) weren't that skinny in the '60s and '70s. I didn't look like that in high school, and I'm not what you would call overweight, either.

      January 3, 2011 at 16:11 | Report abuse |
    • D

      I'm going to clarify a bit that I'm a female high school teacher, and it's only the girls going through growth spurts who are that skinny because their body has stretched out and hasn't caught up with itself. By the time they reach 16.5/17 or so, that's pretty much done and they're filling out. Most girls, and I do mean most, are not overweight but are not that skinny.

      January 3, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse |
    • Peanut

      Actually she is not a healthy size. Look at her left elbow. That is a dead giveaway that she is grossly UNDER weight. I weigh 120 at 5'7 and I am a normal size and actually curvy. THAT is what men like. Only pedophiles like women that look like little boys.

      January 3, 2011 at 18:22 | Report abuse |
    • jujubeans

      Peanut, I'm not looking at her left elbow, I'm looking a little lower. And she's HEALTHY!

      February 6, 2014 at 17:47 | Report abuse |
  4. NealR2000

    If you've spent any time around this age-group, you will know that they don't view such truth-stretching as dishonesty. In their world, if they don't do something most of the time, it means they don't do it. Occasional lapses don't count!

    January 3, 2011 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Laura

      True. They learned this form of truth stretching from their parents and grandparents. I remember my grandmother claiming she had waited until marriage. On her deathbed she admitted that my father was not the son of her husband. She was a single mom when she met my grandfather.
      There is NOTHING new under the sun.

      January 3, 2011 at 10:44 | Report abuse |
    • Sam


      I'm sorry but your family situation is atypical. That is not normal for a woman to lie about her son's parentage for her entire life. That is cruel and unusual and most people do not experience that.

      More importantly, going forward hopefully your mother and even yourself can learn from your grandmother's dishonesty and be better people

      January 3, 2011 at 11:08 | Report abuse |
    • Zee

      Sam – actually, this was common years ago when having a child out of wedlock was extremely shameful. I had a family member who was born into a similar scenario. The mother and her husband knew, but hid it from the child so he/she would not feel badly about themself.

      January 3, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
    • msteck

      Wow nice comment Dr. Sam. You sound like an a$$h@le!

      January 3, 2011 at 13:39 | Report abuse |
    • UM

      Wow , you mean most kids lie about being w hores? GO FIGURE! The rest of us young people actually have morals because our parents give a crap about us. Never had an STD in my entire life. I don't know how you nasty slu ts deal with it .

      January 3, 2011 at 15:00 | Report abuse |
  5. Dom Pfefferkorn

    Of course they are going to lie. A teen lying about something? A teen lying about something they should not have been doing? Wow what a breakthrough.

    January 3, 2011 at 09:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Zargoth

    Dr. House taught me well:

    Everybody lies....

    January 3, 2011 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Sam

    The picture that some overpaid CNN editor chose to accompany the article practically advertises frisky behavior whereas the article clearly spells out the perils. Typically hypocritical, low grade, dustbin, neo-primitive mainstream news article.

    January 3, 2011 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mike collins

      yeah, but the chick has nice ta tas.

      January 3, 2011 at 15:22 | Report abuse |
    • big richard

      I'm with Mike ( o )( o )

      February 6, 2014 at 17:53 | Report abuse |
  8. Steven

    The problem is that we think we can pass out survey's and get meaningful data. It doesn't work – it never works. Use reason, analysis, and careful research instead.

    January 3, 2011 at 11:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Bob

    Lying, stupid, and lazy – just typical teenagers these days.

    January 3, 2011 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeff

      Bob, So True with the "Lying, stupid, and lazy – just typical teenagers these days."

      January 3, 2011 at 13:24 | Report abuse |
  10. Doctor Leon

    Psychologists refuse to accept the fact that more and more people get a "kick" from lying to researchers conducting studies based on surveys and personal interviews. I've been advocating false responses for years. What type of a conclusion do you get from survey data comprised more than 50 percent of false responses? You get exactly what the researcher intended to prove in the first place; regardless of the survey data. That is followed up by rationalizations about "known" lying and possible "contradictions" that don't necessarily invalidate the conclusions. And all of this just proves that psychologists can lie just as well as all those people responding to the surveys.

    January 3, 2011 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Drezz

    mmmm, shes hot

    January 3, 2011 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BLEGH

      Are you kidding me?! She LOOKS like an STD.

      January 3, 2011 at 15:03 | Report abuse |
  12. Sam

    Notice how people are more interested in the 'dishonest' aspect of the report's subjects than they are the fact that teens are engaging in selfish, risky, life-altering behavior at such a young age. What are our priorities? Who cares if they fibbed? They are embarrassed, and rightly so. That's the least of our concern. Is there anyone else operating and viewing this page other than obnoxious, judgmental jerks? We don't need people like 'Bob' insulting young people. We need real men and women to stand up and serve as good parents and role models. Where are today's parents?

    January 3, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Jay

    Kids are dumb....

    January 3, 2011 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. seiscat

    This reminds me of those old surveys where no one would admit to masturbating.

    January 3, 2011 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. D

    I'm not surprised – how many of them are either counting to the day or being flexible so that they can say, with clear conscience, that they haven't had relations in the past year. "Well, it's January 3rd, and the last time was February, so it's pretty much a year." Or how many of them say, "Well, it was just oral. I'm still a virgin, so it doesn't count."

    That said, it is sad how many kids have STDs. I wonder how many know that they have one but are too embarrassed to tell their parents to get treated and so just keep passing it on so as to not face the consequences of their actions with their parents.

    January 3, 2011 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. W

    hey, where's that chicks hand at?!

    January 3, 2011 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Joseph

    Sorry, but there's a difference between a year and never. Actually, a fairly large difference. Fantastically misleading. Yellow journalism, CNN.

    January 3, 2011 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Goalie

    Q: How can you tell if a young adult is lying?

    A: Their lips will be moving.

    Every parent on the planet knows that.

    January 3, 2011 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WRONG

      I did not lie to my parents. Maybe your kids are sacks of feces that don't respect you but I was always upfront with them.

      January 3, 2011 at 18:21 | Report abuse |
    • JayJay

      Parents who think that their kids are lying 24/7 should not be parents in the first place. Yes, kids will lie, but they will not lie all of the time.

      June 10, 2011 at 19:18 | Report abuse |
  19. mae victoria

    forget what the girl looks like. that guy is very hot..

    January 4, 2011 at 02:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. BronxBomber

    They must not be wearing those helpful promise rings....

    January 6, 2011 at 15:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. David

    They are not lying. They learned from a former POTUS that it is not s e x to have oral relations with another. Unfortunately, many STD's can be transmitted via oral contact.

    January 19, 2011 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Word

      Really David? Are you blaming the president who was in office when these kids were in diapers?????? What about their parents? Isn't it the responsibility of the adult caregivers in their lives to teach them the importance of virtue and abstinence????

      February 23, 2011 at 12:33 | Report abuse |
  22. Mens Promise Rings

    Hi! better wear purity rings and promise rings, it should help.

    January 25, 2011 at 02:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. William Demuth

    Only Christian bimbos sleep around and then lie about it.

    Must be the influence of the Virgin Mary thing.

    January 25, 2011 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Word

    Ok, her bones are poked out. She should gain about ten pounds. Teenagers all lie. Our concern should be who gave the teens the STD. Was it another teenager? Was it an adult? When I was in highschool, my classmates that had STDs had gotten that STD from an adult that had no business fooling around with a highschool kid. I'd be more concerned with that.

    February 23, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
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