MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A new report says that while teen pregnancy and birth rates in Minnesota are at historic lows, there’s been a recent increase in sexually transmitted infections among the state’s youth.
The University of Minnesota Healthy Youth Development – Prevention Research Center (HYD – PRC) released Wednesday its annual Adolescent Sexual Health Report, which showed that last year teen rates of gonorrhea jumped 40 percent and chlamydia rates rose 15 percent. Fifteen new cases of HIV were also reported.
“Youth are talking with their partners more about preventing pregnancy and STIs, yet the rate of condom use is declining,” said Jill Farris, the director of adolescent sexual health training and education for HYD – PRC, in a statement. “Agencies and adults who work with youth must continue to improve their services to meet the unique needs of Minnesota teens.”
The report suggests that teens (ages 15-19) are disproportionately affected by STIs due to “lack of access to prevention services, socioeconomic status, discomfort with facilities designed for adults, and concerns about confidentiality.”
The issue of STIs is significantly greater for teens in Minnesota’s communities of color.
Although black teens make up just 7 percent of the state’s youth population, the gonorrhea rate is 29 times higher for black teens when compared to their white counterparts, according to the report data. Likewise, the chlamydia rate among black teens is 9 times higher than it is for white teens.
After black youth, the highest gonorrhea and chlamydia rates are seen in Hispanic/Latino teens, which make up about 5 percent of the state’s adolescent population. Minnesota teens are 80 percent white.
While STIs are a greater concern in the metro area, the story is different when it comes to teen pregnancy and birth rates.
According to the report, the 10 counties with the highest teen birth rates are all in Greater Minnesota, where affordable, youth-friendly services may be limited.
Still, teen birth and pregnancy rates in Minnesota decreased about 11 percent from 2014 to 2015, the report says. The numbers are at historic lows, down by around 60 percent overall since the early 1990s, driven primarily by a decrease in rates among communities of color.
Even so, significant disparities remain.
The birth rate among American Indian teens in Minnesota is more than four times higher than it is for white teens, the report data shows. Similarly, the birth rates for Hispanic and black teens are about three times higher than they are for white teens.
Going forward, the report suggests that the state should do more to help young parents and improve access to sexual health resources for teens, especially those in communities of color and in rural areas.