This Saturday at Ridglea Theater, Black Tie Dynasty, PPT, The Burning Hotels, and the cut*off, among others, are performing a benefit concert put on by SPEAK Project, a brand-new ad hoc nonprofit group dedicated to raising awareness of sexually transmitted diseases among young people.

After a spike of reported cases among 15-to-24-year-olds in the late ’90s, reported cases leveled off in 2000 but haven’t gone down. In Texas in 2005, according to the most recent public health data, about 53,000 new cases of chlamydia were reported among people aged 15 to 24, accounting for nearly 75 percent of all reported cases. In the Fort Worth-Dallas area, nearly 30,000 cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia were reported, and of that number, more than 22,000 were in the 15-24 age group.

One of the main culprits, according to Kevin Ryan, an outreach specialist for Tarrant County Mental Health Mental Retardation, is a laissez-faire attitude toward long-term health problems. Young people he’s met, he said, “aren’t shy of being on [antibiotics] for gonorrhea or chlamydia.” Misconceptions – and the stark numbers of reported cases – moved Ryan to begin exploring various local outreach options. The one that stuck was “a health fair disguised as a concert.”

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