Only On 6: Texoma Tweens & STDs - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Only On 6: Texoma Tweens & STDs

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Newschannel 6 reached out to the Wichita Falls Wichita County Public Health District and learned Texoma Tweens as young as 12 years old are being diagnosed with and treated for sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, Texoma is on track to double its STD rate in 2012 among people 25 years old and younger.

 "We are seeing an increase in STDs. Over last year, we've already increased quite a bit. The only thing that doesn't seem to be on the rise right now, is our HIV cases and our Syphilis cases," Mistie Coovert, RN, BSN said.

Coovert is the Communicable Disease Supervisor and head STD nurse at the Wichita Falls Wichita County Public Health District.

The most notable increases: Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. In 2011, more than 70 cases of Chlamydia were reported. From January through May of 2012, only five months time, more than 40 cases have already been reported.

Gonorrhea is also on the rise in Texoma. It's the most significant increase of all the STDs in Texoma. In all of 2011, 44 cases were reported. The first five months of 2012, already 31 cases.

The Wichita Falls Wichita County Public Health District provided Newschannel 6 with the following statistics:

 

January - December 2011 (12 Months)

Chlamydia: 73

Gonorrhea: 44

Nongonococcal Urethritis (NGU): 224

Mucopurulent Cervicitis (MPC): 290

Trichomoniasis: 50

Syphilis: 14

HIV: 0

Total Patients (25 & Younger): 448

 

January - May 2012 (5 Months)

Chlamydia: 42

Gonorrhea: 31

Nongonococcal Urethritis (NGU): 120

Mucopurulent Cervicitis (MPC): 144

Trichomoniasis: 33

Syphilis: 2

HIV: 1

Total Patients (25 & Younger): 190

 

Medical experts we spoke with said part of what may be to blame for the increase and in exposing younger children to sexual activity is a rise in the new cultural phenomenon, "sexting." A new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that nearly 30% of Texas high school students have sent sexually-explicit messages using their cell phones.

A second study done at the University of Texas at Medical Branch in Galveston backed up those findings. Researchers found more than half of the students surveyed had been asked for a nude photo. Further, that study also found that there's a direct correlation between tweens who "sext" and tweens having sex.

Dr. Daunne P. Peters, MD is a pediatrician at the Clinics of North Texas in Wichita Falls. Dr. Peters said parents need to start talking to their kids about sex younger than people expect.

"Sex is getting younger and younger. Drug abuse is getting younger and younger.  Kids are exposed to more younger and younger. So, you have to start talking to kids about it as early as you can," Dr. Peters said. She continued, "They're having sexual contacts. They may not be doing full sexual activity, but they are having some sexual contacts at that age."

Dr. Peters also said part of the reason for the increase has to do with access i.e. sexting, texting, the Internet, and social media sites like Facebook. It is this access, she said, that's spawned a rise in sexting.

"After you see it and you see it and you see it, you get more comfortable with it. And you think, 'Oh this isn't wrong. You know, I see it all the time.' And so, It blunts your effect. You know, instead of that shock effect, you just get used to it, 'I look at it everyday. I see pornography on my phone everyday, so it must be okay. I feel more comfortable about it.' And [people, namely Tweens] get bolder and bolder and bolder, and they think it's okay," Dr. Peters told Newschannel 6.

Additional factors medical experts blame for the rise: immaturity and a lack of education.

"These kids aren't ready. You know, these kids are babies themselves. They're not ready. They don't understand the responsibility and the complications and the side effects that go with that. Plus they're emotionally, mentally, physically not mature to handle it. And it affects them for the rest of their lives. It opens them up to so many other illnesses, complications, etc. and they don't know that. They don't understand that," Dr. Peters said.

Nurse Mistie Coovert emphasized Dr. Peters' idea further when she said, "They don't know how easy it is to pass. They don't realize that there's no symptoms. They think that you can just look at someone and tell that they have it, and you can't... You most definitely can't. You cannot tell just by looking."

Medical experts told Newschannel 6 that parents need to have the sex talk with their children before they learn about sex from someone else. Professionals advise parents have the talk with their children more often and start having the talk sooner and at a younger age.

"It's always better for the kids to hear it at home from their parents, at least that way you can put in your morals, your values, your beliefs, etc. I would rather them hear it from the parent than their best friend's big sister or brother," Dr. Peters said.

The timeline Dr. Peters and Mistie Coovert prescribe parents start talking to their kids: junior high school. The more often you talk to your kids and the earlier you start talking to them about sex, the less likely they are to have sex - to have unsafe sex.

Dr. Peters offered some advice for parents with Texoma Tweens at home who have had trouble tacking the sex talk:

 

TACKLING THE SEX TALK WITH TWEENS

1. Ask Your Doctor

2. Utilize Sex Education Resources

i.e. books & videos that teach younger audiences

3. Trusted Friend/Family Member Drive Home "The Talk"

4. Provide A Drug Free, Fun Home Environment

 

1. Ask your doctor.

Start with your pediatrician. Ask for tips about how to handle the talk with your Tweenager. Dr. Peters said you may want to be mindful that your child may be more comfortable talking with a medical professional about sex, so your doctor can be an even greater asset than parents might realize.

2. Utilize Sex Education Resources

Educational books and/or videos can be helpful tools for you and your Tween. These resources can provide a helpful transition into the conversation.

3. Trusted Friend/Family Member Drive Home "The Talk"

If you find yourself unable to brave the sex talk with your kid, find someone you trust - maybe another family member - who can in your place. Do not simply avoid the conversation. Doing so is detrimental.

4. Provide A Drug Free, Fun Home Environment

Finally, parents: promote a good, safe environment for your kids to have drug-free fun. Dr. Peters said, this alone will help drive the message home that being a kid is fun -- and growing up is not a race.

 Dr. Peters is a mother of four herself. She said she understands what Texoma's parents are going through but told Newschannel 6 she practices what she preaches and talks to her Tweens. Regardless of how difficult it may be to engage in the conversation, she said, it is necessary.

Unfortunately, not enough parents are talking about it. It's just one reason for the dramatic STD increase in Texoma, remember: a lack of education. Being unwilling to talk about the problem is part of what has caused it.

A strong message from Dr. Peters to all Texoma parents who think, "It will never happen to my kid": "That's just not true. That's a very naive picture. I feel the same way.  I'm Christian. I'm Catholic. I believe in abstinence. I teach my kids that and I would like to think that's not going to be my kid, but that's living in a bubble." Dr. Peters continued, "These kids aren't perfect. We weren't perfect, you know. And you just have to help them through as best you can."

The Health Department recognizes the growing problem among Texoma Tweens. Doctors and nurses at the Wichita Falls Wichita County Public Health District are committed to STD prevention, among Tweens and adults alike. Medical professionals there will make sure anyone who comes inside their doors - with or without their parents - will be able to walk out prepared to have safe sex. Doctors and nurses pass out condoms in brown bags to anyone asking for them. This way, if Tweens are embarrassed, the condoms are concealed.

Regardless of which side of the debate you may find yourself on - the details of the sex talk with your Tween is entirely up to you, parents. However, one thing is certain: "It is happening here. And it's slowly trickling because of the age getting younger, it's slowly trickling out to communities such as ours. it's now here in our community. Because yes, it starts out in the big cities, but it trickles down and a lot of it's because of access with Internet and Facebook, and texting, and sexting. It's here and it is in our community," Dr. Peters said.

Brittany Glas, Newschannel 6

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