According to the CDC, approximately 19 million new sexually transmitted infections occur in the U.S. each year, with half of these cases affecting youth between the ages of 15 and 24. According to John Douglas, director of the CDC division of sexually transmitted diseases, “We have among the highest rates of STDs of any developed country in the world.”
Why on earth would the U.S. be so far behind other countries in keeping our youth safe from STIs? (Drum roll, please.) Abstinence only sexual education!
This won’t come as a surprise to anyone’s who’s paid attention to any of a number of studies that have found abstinence only to be ineffective in preventing teen pregnancy and STIs, but it is a new development to have the CDC arguing so forcefully for the need for a comprehensive approach to sex ed. across the country.
As Douglas put it, “We haven’t been promoting the full battery of messages. We have been sending people out with one seat belt in the whole car.”
Cases of syphilis, which has been nearly eliminated in the past, increased by 36 percent between 2007 and 2008. And chlamydia and gonorrhea both remain “stable at unacceptably high levels,” with teenage girls disproportionately affected.
In a climate where sexual activity is accompanied by shame, girls are much less likely to seek treatment for these entirely curable illnesses. According to Reuters, “Syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea can all be treated with antibiotics but untreated can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy and can infect newborns.”
Hopefully, the new CDC rhetoric will result in a new educational policy in public schools throughout the U.S. Encouraging youth to use condoms and get regularly tested for STIs does not promote sexual activity, any more than wearing a seat belt promotes reckless driving. And if your son or daughter was going to be in the car with a reckless driver, regardless of what you said, wouldn’t you at least want him or her to wear a seat belt?
Photo: Teen Vogue