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Lock up your daughters!

“What? WHAT?”

I’m spluttering semi-coherently. I’ve just read one of those news stories that can do that to you: One in four teenaged girls in this country has an STD.

One in four?

That’s 3.2 million American girls; girls between the ages of 14 and 19; girls walking around with a sexually transmitted disease. Many of them don’t even know it.

The study, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was released yesterday. Researchers tested 838 girls for the four most common STDs: human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and herpes. Fifteen percent of the infected girls had more than one STD. HPV was by far the most common.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Sara Forhan, says the findings are alarming (well, yes!), and other experts say it points up one of the biggest problems with STDs – they tend to be a “hidden epidemic.” Meaning, they have no symptoms but are very, very common. Girls don’t know they have ‘em so they pass ‘em along to their partners (and, of course, vice versa).

OK, we do have Gardasil, the new vaccine that protects girls against four types of HPV (which cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts, according to the CDC). The vaccine has been proven to be 100 percent effective.

The FDA and CDC recommend the vaccine for girls around eleven and older.

Eleven? I have an 11-year-old girl! How can I haul that little pink-and-purple, horse-loving, Girl-Scout-cookie-selling, pony-tailed bundle of sweetness off to the doc for an STD shot?

But how can I not?

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