– Leola Reis, Planned Parenthood
According to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in this New Year, 19 million people will become infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Almost half of them will be teenagers, and the rate of infection is going up.
However, when you talk to teenagers, it seems as if most of them know how to avoid contracting an STD.
“By using protection during sex, and abstaining from sex, and mostly getting to know the person you are going to have sex with,” says Andy, 18.
“Stay a virgin,” says Ashley, 14.
“They get [an STD] because they’re careless. They don’t like to use condoms because they like the way it feels without one. That’s stupid,” says Marcus, 17.
According to the CDC, the rates of STDs are climbing. Both Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are up more than 5 percent since 2005. After 15 years of decline, Syphilis is up 14 percent, and 25 percent of teenage girls have Human Papillomavirus (HPV), according to the American Medical Association. Still, some teens remain complacent.
“What [teenagers] know as a statistic is not necessarily what changes their lifestyle or their behaviors,” says Wanda Wong, RN, public health nurse (PHN), county health services coordinator.
“They won’t stop having sex. If anything, they’ll hide whatever they have,” says Clinton, 20.
That’s why, experts say, parents need to repeat the message that STDs are serious. Some are incurable; some can result in cancer, infertility, even death. And all of them are preventable.
“It takes more than one conversation or one brochure. It takes a network of repeated messages — from parents, from peer groups — to encourage a sense that you as the individual are worth protecting,” says Leola Reis, Planned Parenthood.
“You don’t know where that person has been, what kind of people they’ve slept with. Better to be safe than sorry,” says Denelle, 20.
Tips for Parents
- It’s never too late to talk to your child about STDs. But the best time to start having these discussions is during the preteen or middle school years. (Nemours Foundation)
- Questions are a good starting point for a discussion. When kids are curious, they’re more open to hearing what their parents have to say. Another way to initiate a discussion is to use a media cue, such as a TV program or an article in the paper, and ask your child what he or she thinks about it. (Nemours Foundation)
- Be informed. STDs can be a frightening and confusing subject, so it may help if you learn about STD transmission and prevention. You don’t want to add any misinformation, and being familiar with the topic will make you feel more comfortable. (Nemours Foundation)
- Ask your child what he or she already knows about STDs and what else your child would like to learn. Remember, though: Your child may already know a lot more than you realize, although much of that information could be incorrect. Parents need to provide accurate information so their kids can make the right decisions and protect themselves. (Nemours Foundation)
- Explain that the only sure way to remain STD-free is to nothave sex or intimate contact with anyone outside of a committed, monogamous relationship, such as marriage. However, anyone who is having sex should always use a latex condom, preferably with a spermicidal foam, cream or jelly that contains nonoxynol-9. (Nemours Foundation)
- Nemours Foundation