A study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that one in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted infection. The prevalence of STI infections in teens found by this study is disturbing, but we must use the results to garner support for sexual education and awareness in schools, at the doctor’s office and at home.
The study’s data, released last Tuesday, from 2003-2004 was gathered from 838 girls and found that 18 percent had HPV, 4 percent had Chlamydia, 2.5 percent had trichomoniasis and 2 percent had herpes simplex virus. Almost half of black teenage girls who participated in the study had an STI as did 20 percent of white and Hispanic teenage girls.
The results of the CDC’s study points to larger issues in education and healthcare systems. The claim that abstinence-only education will work to protect our children is invalid – the study proves that many American teenagers are having sex regardless of the abstinence push in schools. Because of abstinence-only education, those teenagers who choose to have sex are left unprepared to protect themselves and deal with the consequences that may arise such as contracting sexually transmitted infections. Abstinence-only education also instills the notion that having sex is shameful and immoral, which may hinder teenagers’ willingness to get tested and treated.
The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend that young teens receive the HPV vaccine, Guardasil, but many parents are unwilling to provide their children with it out of fear that it will promote promiscuity.
In the case of sexual behavior, any child with a decent head on his or her shoulders is able to distinguish between moral decisions and health-related precautions. We must educate our children about sexual health and disease prevention so that they may lead healthful lives far into adulthood.