Aside from the fact that I prefer to talk about STI’s than STD’s (and here’s why), I am excited for this awareness month because the message has been reduced to three key words:
- Talk – openly and honestly with future sex partners and healthcare providers. Discuss your sexual history and the prevention methods available to you.
- Test – if you have put yourself at risk. Many STI’s are asymptomatic. The only way to know that you are infection free is to get tested.
- Treat – successful treatment and care are available. Do you know how to access healthcare providers and arrange for a test?
The US has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized world. Each year in the US, more than 750,000 women ages 15–19 become pregnant,7 with more than 80 percent of these pregnancies unintended. Furthermore, while young people in the US ages 15–25 make up only one-quarter of the sexually active population, they contract about half of the 19 million sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) annually. This equates to one in four sexually active teenagers contracting a sexually transmitted disease each year. And young people ages 13–29 account for about one-third of the estimated 50,000 new HIV infections each year, the largest share of any age group. (taken from National Sexuality Education Standards)
So when should we first start talking about STI’s with our students? According to FOSE, by the end of 5th grade students should be able to define HIV and identify some age appropriate methods of transmission, as well as ways to prevent transmission. Interpersonal communication skills are crucial for students if they wish to express their needs, wants and feelings. These skills allow our students to advocate for themselves and others. I urge my teen aged students to talk openly with their partners about their relationship history and what it is that they expect from a future relationship.
STD Teachers Guide for Grades 6 – 8 from KidsHealth
STD Teachers Guide for Grades 9 – 12 from KidsHealth
It is important that all students have the skills necessary to be able to identify valid health information, health-promoting products and services if they wish to prevent, detect and treat health problems. I encourage my students to demonstrate their health literacy by ensuring that they can identify health service providers within our school building and our local community. For all things related to sexual health including STI testing our go-to providers are named Angles. We invite their staff in to educate our students about their wonderful services. Do your students know where to go locally to get tested for STI’s?
Too often, judge comes after test, with society blaming and shaming those with STI’s. This isolates those with the infection, removes their voice and restricts their opportunity to share an experience that might prevent others from becoming infected. Follow the #shoutyourstatus to see how this issue is being discussed on Twitter. It is important for students to know that all STI’s can be treated and that it is possible for individuals to lead ‘normal’ lives after infection. The infected can still have relationships, have a sex life, and continue to be valuable members of society!
STD Treatment includes a link to a CDC STD app.
Here are the #slowchathealth questions for this week. Answer them one by one, or all at once. The important thing is that we keep the conversation going.
Q1 What opposition do you face when it comes to talking to students about STI’s? #slowchathealth
Q2 Is your teaching of STI’s content or skills driven? #slowchathealth
Q3 How real is the threat of STI’s to your students? #slowchathealth
Q4 How easy is it for your students to access sexual health knowledge within your community? #slowchathealth
Q5 Share STI resources or Twitter accounts that other #healthed teachers should be checking out. #slowchathealth