This guest blog post comes from Rose Tenuta, a health educator who works at Candor Health Education, and is aimed at students.
It is almost Valentine’s Day! Thoughts of romance and love are on many young people’s minds and in ads on TV. Feeling in love is a wonderful connection between people. Many times in movies and TV shows, people are shown being in love and having sexual contact without any discussion or thought of some of the outcomes that might result from that contact. One of those outcomes could be a sexually transmitted infection. Many of you reading this might be thinking that this is not really something YOU would have to worry about—after all, your partner is probably young like yourself, and teens don’t have to worry about STIs—right?
Unfortunately, that is wrong.
In 2018, there were 26 million new cases of Sexually Transmitted Infections. Nearly half of that number occurred in young people aged 15 to 24. That is the sophomore year in high school until graduate school or just a couple of years out of college.
The most common STIs are Human Papilloma Virus, genital herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Others include syphilis, hepatitis B, and HIV. It might surprise you that cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia have been INCREASING over the past few years.
However, there is some encouraging news. People who have mutually monogamous sexual relationships (they stay only with each other) with an uninfected partner have a minimal risk of catching an STI. People who talk to their partners honestly about their sexual history can also reduce the risk. Sexually active young people should be tested by a doctor or medical clinic for STIs. Only 1 out of 12 sexually active young people are tested for STIs. Once diagnosed, many STIs can be treated and cured, although viral STIs cannot be “cured.”
When health teachers talk with students about sexually transmitted infections they can weave in many health skills. Perhaps their focus is on standard 3, accessing valid and reliable services and information regarding sexual health. If a student wanted to get STI tested, would they know how to seek out that information?
Perhaps their focus is on standard 4, demonstrating those interpersonal communication skills to enhance health and avoid or reduce health risks. How do teens let their partners know what they are looking for in a relationship so that both feel respected and remain happy?
Standard 5 gives students the opportunity to use decision-making skills to enhance health. Having weighed all of the information, factored in personal values and beliefs, do they wish to be sexually active, or remain abstinent at this time? Evaluating our decisions allows us to decide wether we made the right choice, or would behave in a different manner when facing the situation again in the future.
Pairing standard 2 with standard 6 provides students with the opportunity to analyze the influences on our health behaviors and set health goals for the future, and for those students passionate about teen sexual health, standard 8 encourages you to advocate for the health of others.
Here’s to a healthy, happy Valentine’s Day for all. Love safe!
Check out Candor Health Education for more details about their resources and services.
If you liked this blog post you will also like:
Childhood Crush: Can it be Love? by Dr. Lea Lis
How Can We #stopSTIgma? Changing the Conversation Around Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) by Dr. Ina Park
The Puberty Talk, the Sex Talk, and Timing by Laura Benn of Candor Health Education