Teen Angst

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STDs and Young People

Raising Awareness of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Seventeen year old Abigail dreaded the moment she heard her phone ring.  “This is it” she thought.  With her heart in her throat she answered; it was the doctor’s office on the other end.  All she heard from the nurse was “positive.”  Everything else was a blur.  Just one night, too many drinks, and scarred for life.  Tuning back into the conversation, Abigail caught the tail end, “we need to get you into the office so we can discuss treatment.”  Abigail’s future was now infected with the STD, Genital Herpes.  One  decision, changed Abigail’s life forever. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, April is Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) Awareness month.  In an effort to reach out to young people, this observance is to raise awareness of the impact of STDs and encourage STD testing.  Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for about half of all STD cases.  That's an alarming statistic and that's why it's important that we educate today's young people about STDs.  It doesn't matter if they're straight, gay, single, or married, they can still get an STD.  Plus, many STDs can be spread through oral, anal, or vaginal sex.  While condoms definitely help with protection, they aren't foolproof.  

There are more than 20 types of STDs.  Some of the most common are Chlamydia, Herpes, Gonorrhea ("Clap"). About 3 million new cases of Chlamydia are reported each year, with adolescent women being the most commonly affected.  Other types of STDs include:

  • HIV/AIDS
  • HPV/Genital Warts
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Hepatitis

Common Symptoms

  • Bumps or sores, near the anus, mouth, penis, or vagina
  • Swelling or redness near the penis or vagina
  • Skin rash
  • Pain when urinating
  • Weight loss
  • Loose stools
  • Night sweats/Chills
  • Aches, and pains
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Discharge from the penis or vagina. (Some discharge may have an odor.)
  • Bleeding from the vagina not attributed to menstrual cycle
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Severe itching in the pubic area

Facts

  • One in two sexually active young people will get an STD by the age of 25.
  • Most young people with STDs aren’t aware they have them.  Many STDs are asymptomatic and many don’t even know they have them. That’s why it’s important to get tested. 
  • Every year there are more than 19 million new cases in the U.S.
  • Left untreated, some STDs can cause infertility or increase your risk of getting cancer.
  • More than 50 percent of sexually active men and women will get HPV at some point during their lives.
  • Each year STDs cost the U.S. healthcare system $17 billion – and the price the individual has to pay is even more in regards to immediate and long-term health consequences.
  • Many STDs are curable, or treatable with antibiotics

While there are a lot of great sites devoted to helping increase the awareness of STDs, MTV has done a phenomenal job on their IYSL (It's Your (Sex) Life) site.  Plus, kudos to MTV for launching the campaign "Get Yourself Tested" aka "GYT" to encourage STD testing.  The campaign is aimed at reducing the spread of STDs among young people.  Check out the MTV GYT site for more information:

http://www.itsyoursexlife.com/gyt/std-and-testing-faqs/where-do-i...

Back to Abigail:

Abigail visited her doctor and discussed the treatment options of genital herpes.  Although she was discouraged to find out that there's no cure for genital herpes, she was relieved that there was treatment with prescription antiviral medications.   

In conclusion, if you suspect that you have an STD, please see your doctor.  If you don't know whether you do or don't, but are sexually active then GYT (Get Yourself Tested).  Again, many STDs are treatable or curable, but early detection is crucial.  Don't be a statistic, play it safe and protect yourself from STDs.

STD Resource Websites:

http://www.cdcnpin.org/stdawareness/

http://www.cdc.gov/std/

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C., is the author of The Anger Workbook for Teens.

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