updated 1/26/2005 8:01:12 PM ET 2005-01-27T01:01:12

Pediatrician Meg Meeks examines the pressures on teens on the issue of sex and the risks involved. You can read an excerpt of her book, "Epidemic: Raising Great Teens in a Toxic Sexual Culture," below:

I am young for a physician. I have been seeing patients for only 20 years now. But the changes I have witnessed among the illnesses in our kids have rattled me to the core.
During my pediatric training in a large inner-city hospital, I cared for multitudes of kids with countless problems. Many of their problems centered around sex—pregnancy, STDs, and sexual abuse. It was disturbing but I kept thinking that life would be better, cleaner, less complicated once I went into a suburban private practice caring for middle-income and higher-income kids. In 1987 I left the inner city and entered private practice, and over the next several years I took care of red-faced babies who nursed beautifully. I liked leaving behind the mess.

And it seemed that for 5 years or so, the bulk of the mess did stay away. But then something happened. It came to my office, into my patients, into the schools that my patients attended. Like tiny explosions erupting around our small town, abnormal Pap smears started showing up, pelvic inflammatory diseases, herpes, and HPV came into my exam rooms like rude invaders. They didn’t belong in my patients. My patients were teenagers. They weren’t high risk. Most didn’t have drug problems. What in the world was happening?

When I went to medical conferences around the country I asked my colleagues what they were seeing. They told me the same frightening story—STDs, risky behaviors, and in younger and younger kids. Not just in the tough crowds—in all types of crowds. I became particularly distressed talking to my gynecologist friends. They saw the messes too. They felt like they were fighting an uphill battle that couldn’t be won. As they shrugged their shoulders in frustration, I began to see my patients’ teachers doing the same thing. “We know our kids are having sex all the time. And we know they may get sick, but what can we do?” I heard this repeatedly from both teachers and physicians.

As my own kids have grown, I’ve become increasingly troubled by the advertising, the movies, and the magazines targeting our kids. Like so many other parents, I have been dragged into Abercrombie & Fitch and the video rental store, and have shaken my head “no” until it felt like it would fall off. Maybe these bother me more than most parents. Because in the morning, I drive to my office, go behind a closed examining room door, and clean up another mess. Like HPV in a 15-year-old or herpes in a high school senior.

My hope is that, as you read about my patients and you see the overwhelming data about the epidemic of STDs, you will become uncomfortable too.

My goal is not just to shock or upset you. I also want to give you tremendous encouragement. You are the answer to the epidemic surrounding all of our kids.

Excerpted from "Epidemic: Raising Great Teens in a Toxic Sexual Culture," by Dr. Meg Meeker, (c) 2004, with permission from LifeLine Press. All rights reserved.

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