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Division of HIV and STD Programs
600 S. Commonwealth Ave., 10th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90005
Phone:(213) 351-8000
Fax: (213) 738-0825
Office Hrs: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. M-F
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Information for Parents

There is a wealth of resources in L.A. County for parents to help them understand how HIV, STDs and sexual health issues affect their teenage children. Specifically, there are many options available to help parents talk to their kids about sex and other difficult subjects. There are also many sources of information about HIV, STDs and sexual health, including which kinds of STDs are most common among young people, and how to prevent them or recognize and treat them. Finally, L.A. County has many choices for free and low-cost reproductive health care for teens, including clinics with after-school and weekend hours. Your teenage children can get the health care they need.

Young people under the age of 25 are at the highest risk for most STDs, especially the common bacterial infections, chlamydia and gonorrhea. In 2006, there were more than 24,000 cases of chlamydia and more than 5,000 cases of gonorrhea among youth ages 15-24 in L.A. County. The risk for youth for other STDs, like herpes and HPV (the virus that causes genital warts and can also lead to cervical cancer) is also very high. In fact, it’s estimated that one in four young women in the U.S. ages 14-19 is infected with at least one common STD, including herpes, HPV, chlamydia and trich (trichomoniasis). Most STDs often have no symptoms – until they lead to more serious problems or complications.   Additionally, the largest increase in new HIV infections is happening among people 25 and younger.

Because HIV and STDs in youth are such a substantial problem, L.A. County Public Health recommends:

  • Teens who are sexually active get an HIV and STD check-up at least once a year.

  • Teens who think they might have HIV or an STD, or find out that a sex partner does, immediately get tested.

  • Girls ages 9-14 should get vaccinated for HPV infection, one of the most common STDs, which causes 70% of cervical cancer. Free or low-cost vaccine is available.

  • Vaccination is also available for Hepatitis B, a serious infection which can be transmitted sexually. Most teens in the United States have already been vaccinated for Hep B as infants. Make sure your child was vaccinated. Free or low-cost vaccine is available.

If you ever have any questions about STDs, talking with your teens about sex, or finding reproductive health care for your family, you can always call one of our hotlines.

Tips for Parents to Help their Teens Stay Sexually Healthy

Talk to your kids. The reality is that teens learn about sex from many sources, including the media, their friends, their school – and their parents. You, as a parent, are in a unique position to influence your child’s values and decisions regarding sex. There are many resources available (see links below) to assist you in building comfortable communication with your teen.  A lot of parents are uncomfortable talking to their kids about sex, and vice versa. But if you don’t talk to them, they will form their views about sex without the benefit of your guidance.

Educate yourself about HIV and STDs. HIV and STDs are transmitted through direct sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex, and some (like syphilis or herpes) can be transmitted through the vigorous skin-to-skin rubbing that takes place during sex. Many STDs can be transmitted without having intercourse.  HIV can also be transmitted through sharing of needles. 

Know about HIV and STD prevention, including condoms. For someone who is sexually active, using condoms every time they have sex is still the best protection against HIV and other STDs. Research suggests that when parents talk to their kids about condoms the kids are more likely to use condoms when they have sex. Used consistently and correctly, condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV and other STDs.  The County can supply condoms to you in the mail for free.

Know about what care to seek. Sexually active youth should get an HIV and STD check-up at least once a year, and right away if they have symptoms, or think their sex partner has HIV or an STD. HIV and STDs often don’t cause any symptoms at first. They can still cause serious health problems later, like not being able to have children, serious damage to internal organs, and even cancer. There are dozens of clinics in the L.A. area where youth can get free or low-cost HIV/STD testing. Teens who don’t have health insurance, have a limited income, or still live with their parents likely qualify for Family PACT, a California program that offers free birth control and STD testing.

Know about cervical cancer prevention and the HPV vaccine. New vaccines are available free for young women to prevent types of HPV (human papillomavirus) that can cause cervical cancer – a common cancer that affects women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information about the vaccine.

Know the HIV-STD connection. Someone who is HIV-negative and has an STD like syphilis or gonorrhea is much more likely to become HIV infected, if they have sex with an HIV-infected partner. If someone is HIV-positive and has an STD, it’s easier for them to transmit HIV to a negative sex partner.

Make sure your child has been vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. Hepatitis A and B are serious diseases that can cause illness for weeks or months. Hepatitis B can also cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death.  Free or low-cost vaccine is available.

Know about complicating factors. Using drugs and alcohol increases HIV and STD risk, because it increases the chances that people will engage in risky behaviors. For instance, while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, a person may be more likely to have sex without a condom.  So, talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol can also help reduce their HIV/STD risk. For help on these issues, visit the Talking with Kids website.

Understand how teens in California can consent to their own HIV and STD care and how this can help you keep your kids safe. In California, someone who is 12 years old or older can get tested and treated for HIV or STDs without their parents’ consent. This policy was created to make sure teens would get the care they need even if they were too uncomfortable to talk to their parents about sex. You may want to inform your kids about this right so that they know that have this option if, for some reason, they were unable to talk to you. Find out more here.

Links and Resources

Resources for Talking to Your Kids About STDs and Sexual Health

  • Advocates for Youth Parent's Section: General information and resources for parents and strategies for engaging young people in discussion about sex and health. 

  • Talking with Kids About Tough Issues:  Effort to promote strong communication between parents and teens about many important youth-related issues, including STDs and HIV, drugs and alcohol, violence prevention.

  • Parents Info: Planned Parenthood site that provides up-to-date information about what children need to know about sex and sexuality, how to talk to them about it, and how to teach them to protect themselves against HIV.

STD Resources for Youth

  • Advocates for Youth: Provides information, training, and strategic assistance to youth-serving organizations, policy makers, youth activists, and the media to help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health.

  • Go Ask Alice!: A health question and answer Internet site produced by "Alice!," Columbia University's Health Education Program. "Alice" answers questions about relationships, sexuality, sexual health, emotional health, nutrition, alcohol, nicotine, drugs, and, general health.

  • I Wanna Know: Created by the American Social Health Association, this site offers information on STDs, basics about what's going on with your body, and advice on how to deal with peer pressure.

  • Kaiser Family Foundation: “It’s Your Sex Life: Your Guide to Safe and Responsible Sex,” a booklet produced with MTV on preventing HIV, STDs, and unintended pregnancy for young people.

  • Reach LA: A youth-oriented community-based organization in Los Angeles that provides HIV prevention services.

  • Teen Source: A Web site by the California Family Health Council with information on sexual health, relationships, and related issues. Get information, hear directly from other teens in recorded interviews, watch streaming videos, take a virtual clinic tour, or find a clinic near you.

  • Teen Talk: Planned Parenthood resource for teens.

  • Youth Resource: A web site created by and for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (GLBTQ) young people 13 to 24 years old, takes a holistic approach to sexual health by offering support, community, resources, and peer-to-peer education about issues of concern to GLBTQ young people.

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