Imagine a world where testing for sexual transmitted infections (STIs) was as normal and routine as getting a flu shot or your teeth cleaned. Imagine if there was no shame in asking to be tested for chlamydia or gonorrhea or HIV. Imagine how many people–who may have been infected without knowing it– could live healthier lives because they didn’t fear the social repercussions of having an STI.
Sexually transmitted infections (also known as sexually transmitted diseases/ STDs) are self-explanatory: infections that are primarily transmitted through sexual behavior such as vaginal, anal, or oral sex. About 20 million new infections occur every year in the U.S., and about half of those will be among people under the age of 25. If left untreated, STIs can lead to a number of health problems– including infertility, cancer, chronic pain, high-risk pregnancy, and even death.
But here’s the tricky thing about STIs….
Last week, as we began our celebration of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, I noted that the U.S. has experienced dramatic decreases in teen pregnancy rates over the past decades. While this is an excellent trend, our teens still lag far behind their peers in other countries.
Take a look for yourself: the U.S. has much higher teen birth rates than other western,
industrialized countries and it doesn’t stop there– teen pregnancy and abortion rates are also much higher in the U.S.
On average, U.S. teens initiate sexual activity around the same age and are no more sexuality active than teens in other countries.
So, what are we, in the U.S. doing wrong?
Or to put a more positive spin on the question, what are other countries doing right? Continue reading
This week, we welcome a guest blogger — Faith, a high school student from the greater Bangor area.
A group of twenty-five teens sat in a room, buzzing with excitement at the chance to voice their opinion. In public, the topic they were discussing would cause some awkward stares, hushed voices, and very quiet teenagers.
Sexual health is one of those topics that is rarely discussed seriously, but is incredibly important to be informed about. When I was given the chance to educate parents and teens, I – along with many others – jumped on it.
I’m Faith, a teen heavily involved with a group called Project AWARE. Project AWARE is a non-profit organization based in Southern Maine, whose goal is to empower and educate youth by giving them the opportunity to make movies or videos on very important topics in life.
The Family Planning Association of Maine contracted with Project AWARE to help them create a 10-20 minute movie on teen sexual health, along with four one-to-two-minute videos, called scenarios.
This long journey to create the movie began last December. Continue reading
Coach teaches a sex ed class in the movie "Mean Girls"
Last week, we talked about the high teen pregnancy and STD infection rates in the U.S. compared to other developed countries. It turns out that differing societal attitudes towards teen sexuality is the biggest factor accounting for the huge gap. European parents and other adults are much more accepting of teen sexuality and teens consider it the norm to take precautions when engaging in sexual activity.
Quite different from the “sex is bad” approach so common in this country.
Aside from changing our entire country’s cultural norms around sexuality, what can we do to reduce teen pregnancy and STD infection rates? Continue reading
“In any given society, at any given moment in history, people become sexual the same way they become anything else. Without much reflection, they pick up directions from their social environment.”
~ John H. Gagnon, Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Stony Brook University
Professor Gagnon’s statement speaks to one of my biggest questions:
Why does the U.S. have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates of any developed country? Continue reading
April is National STD Awareness Month, an annual observance to call attention to the impact of sexually transmitted diseases and to promote STD testing across the United States.
You may not think you’re affected by STDs but we all are in some way or other.
Every year, STDs cost the U.S. health care system $17 billion — and they cost affected individuals even more in immediate and long-term health consequences. Continue reading
February 14th is right around the corner. And you know what that means!
It’s Valentine’s Day — an occasion to celebrate love and lovers. Bring out the flowers, the chocolates and the condoms.
Why condoms? Continue reading
After writing last week’s blog post about Sarah, my new teen pregnancy prevention hero, I realized that our readers might not be familiar with the term “evidence-based” as it relates to sexuality education.
I thought I’d write an explanation. But when I found myself mired deeper and deeper in more and more complex terminology, I started to worry.
How could I possibly explain this stuff without putting my readers to sleep?
Then the proverbial light bulb came on and I decided to put together a Top Ten List, a la David Letterman, comparing comprehensive, evidence-based pregnancy prevention programming with abstinence-only-until-marriage education. So, here goes… Continue reading
I just read a wonderful article about teen sexual health, written by former U.S. Surgeon General, Jocelyn Elders. In the piece, Dr. Elders discusses adolescent development and makes a case for universal access to contraceptive care for teens and age-appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education for children of all ages.
Early in the article, Dr. Elders makes a bold statement. She says, “efforts to prevent teens from having sex have been largely unsuccessful in stemming sexual activity because teenagers have a hormonal imperative to explore their sexuality.” (emphasis mine)
Whoa! I’ve never heard anyone put it quite so bluntly — hormonal imperative indeed. But Dr. Elders doesn’t stop there; she continues her no-nonsense lesson in adolescent development with the following comments.