Teen Health

Spurred to action: Local teen STD rates lend real ‘urgency’ to educators’ cause

2013-09-14T22:09:00Z 2013-12-12T10:54:35Z Spurred to action: Local teen STD rates lend real ‘urgency’ to educators’ causeALISON BAUTER alison.bauter@journaltimes.com Journal Times

RACINE — Hundreds of teens and preteens in Racine County reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases last year, one of the worst rates in Wisconsin.

Thirty-three percent of Racine County’s total reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases in 2012 came from teenagers and young adults between the ages of 10 and 19; eight reports of chlamydia came from teens 14 or younger.

When it comes to teen STDs, Racine County is one of the worst in the state — No. 3 next to Kenosha County and Brown County.

“I was surprised,” said Samantha Perry, Project Manager at the Racine/Kenosha Community Action Agency.

More than surprised or even shocked, Perry said, she was spurred to action. Those numbers, she said, reinforced the “urgency, intensity of focus” in educating young adults before they make a mistake.

Changing those statistics has become the target of community action, and starting this week, leaders with the Personal Responsibility Education Program are reaching out to parents.

The Racine-Kenosha Community Action Agency is the convener of a stakeholder group of parents, health care providers and other partners who are working to increase community awareness of and reduce the instance of teen pregnancy and STDs among adolescents in Racine. The Racine Family YMCA is one of the participating stakeholders, and receives federal funding on an annual basis through the Affordable Care Act to provide the PREP program.

Reaching out

The idea of reaching out to parents is to “try to begin to get some traction on this and try to see what action we can collectively take to reduce the problem,” Perry said.

Of counties with comparable caseloads, Racine adolescents experience the third-highest rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis in Wisconsin, according to 2012 data reported to the state Department of Health Services.

According to that data, that’s a rate of about 2 of every 100 Racine County youths age 10-19 who are likely to report one of those sexually transmitted infections.

The bulk of those cases — typically around 90 percent or more — occur in the City of Racine, where 294 adolescents reported having an STD in 2012.

“With the number of cases, this could be anyone’s kid, grandchild, niece, nephew,” Perry said.

‘The talk’

But statistics like these don’t always enter the conversation when and if parents have “the talk” about sex and safety with their children, according to Sarah Martin, PREP Administrator with the YMCA.

She read from a letter she received from a 15-year-old in PREP’s evidence-based sexual education program. The boy wrote that he’d never learned about “trusting girls” before, noting “even if you feel like she’s faithful to you and you don’t need a condom, you should use one for safety.” According to Martin, “That’s the kind of thing I’m hearing.”

She said other students have told her that the PREP program convinced them to wait until marriage to have sex. The program emphasizes abstinence first, but also offers guidance on sexual health and safety.

PREP is hosting discussion groups on the topic starting this week, and starting with adolescents’ parents.

“We’re looking to get, first of all, (parents’) knowledge of this issue in itself,” Perry said.

She said they want to engage with parents and other caregivers “to put a voice” to the problem of adolescent STDs, and to drive community awareness.

The parent discussion groups, which start this week, are aimed at easing parents into having that conversation, finding out how they feel and what issues they see.

“I think our main focus, from the discussion groups, is to see: What does our community already know? ... and what they don’t know about this,” Martin said.

After they answer that question, the discussion groups will culminate with a community forum held in October.


Adolescent STDs in 2012

Reported cases in Racine County of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, ages 10-19:

318: Total cases

294: Cases in the City of Racine

24: Cases elsewhere in Racine County

Source: City of Racine Health Department and Wisconsin Department of Health Services


The Racine/Kenosha Community Action Agency is hosting two discussion groups this month centered around STD rates in Racine. They are a chance to learn more and offer input on the subject.

WHEN: Tuesday, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

WHERE: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, 1134 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive

WHEN: Monday, Sept. 23. 4:30-5:30 p.m.

WHERE: Racine/Kenosha Community Action Agency, 2113 N. Wisconsin St.


Editor's Note: This article has been updated to correct the description of leadership and funding for the Personal Responsibility Education Program.

Copyright 2016 Journal Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. Joeboy5471
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    Joeboy5471 - September 16, 2013 4:00 pm
    Who at the JT picked the photo? Another who might not be thinking about sex, is now!
  2. bslechta
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    bslechta - September 15, 2013 9:51 pm
    smh wow how sad this city has become
  3. Joeboy5471
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    Joeboy5471 - September 15, 2013 4:27 pm
    Absolutely correct. What makes Racine worse is the national trend has been going down for the last three years.
  4. Zigmond
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    Zigmond - September 15, 2013 2:04 pm
    The (D) "no-morals" party has had influenced and spread this behavior. JUST SAY NO what (D)'s are selling.
  5. Bruce and Donna
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    Bruce and Donna - September 15, 2013 10:38 am
    It is unfortunately true, and this study is simply a representation of our community's leaders.

    Ignore the problems if you wish, just don't say you weren't offered education and protection.

    The way to fix this is with better community education and leadership.
  6. LoveRacine
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    LoveRacine - September 15, 2013 9:01 am
    What a sick parallel to draw on a serious problem.
  7. Kksmama
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    Kksmama - September 15, 2013 8:35 am
    statistics start at age 10, at 10 I was playing with Barbie's not even thinking about kissing a boy let alone having sex and getting STD's, I didnt even know what sex was at 10, what is going on with the world! I have a 7 yr. old I cannot imagine her having sex in 3 yrs, or having to talk to her about stuff like STD's and pregnancy, shes a little girl, why are we forcing our kids to grow up so fast!
  8. Erika23
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    Erika23 - September 15, 2013 5:27 am
    Personally I think it's just a waste of time...

    Educators are still stuck discussing whether S.e.x.Ed programs say too little or too much.. meanwhile unprepared teens become sexually active learning "on the job" or by watching p.o.r.n..

    I recently download a new app: My.Sex.Doctor and really love it. It offers tons of info about s.e.x in simple english. I am sure there are other of this kind and to me this is the way forward, giving teens direct access to the education they need to make informed choices about their s.e.x lives. You can check it out at: http://MySexDoctor.org
  9. Bruce and Donna
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    Bruce and Donna - September 14, 2013 11:40 pm
    This is sad, but you can't just blame the kids. They are simply following the example set by many of our own city leaders.

    Maybe they should all stop giving each other special favors in the back room.

    Now their diseases have mutated and spread to infect everyone's property taxes. Unless outside experts are brought in to remove the viruses and bacteria, there might not be a cure.
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