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Alcohol and other drug use is linked to risky sexual behavior and poses significant threats to the health of adolescents. Substance abuse may impair adolescents' ability to make judgments about sex and contraception, placing them at increased risk for unplanned pregnancy, sexual assault, or becoming infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD), including HIV/AIDS.
We know the AIDS virus can be transmitted through sharing hypodermic needles. Less is known about the dangerous role of alcohol and other drugs in sexual behavior that may lead to STDs and HIV/AIDS. To compound matters, there is also considerable evidence that alcohol and other drugs weaken the immune system, thereby increasing susceptibility to infection and disease.
Consider the following statistics:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV/AIDS has been the sixth leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year-olds in the United States for over three years. One in five of the new AIDS cases diagnosed is in the 20 to 29 year age group, meaning that HIV transmission occurred during the teen years. Additionally, more than half of new cases of HIV infection in 1994 were related to drug use.
There is still much to be learned about the relationship between alcohol and other drugs and sexual behavior. During the past decade, teens reported higher levels of sexual activity at earlier ages, experienced more unplanned pregnancies, and suffered higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases. To reduce the incidence of these problems in the future, prevention of alcohol and other drug abuse must be a top priority.
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