4 Out of 4 Teen Girls Need Better Sex Ed

At a conference on STI prevention in Atlanta on Tuesday, the CDC released a study reporting that one in four teen girls in America, sexually active or not, has a sexually transmitted infection — a total of three million girls infected. The study focused on teens aged 14 to 19, and found that half of all African-American and twenty percent of white teen girls are infected with HPV, Chlamydia, genital warts or trichomoniasis.

In response to the news, CDC staffers called for increased screening for STIs and vaccination. "Given that the health effects of STDs for women – from infertility to cervical cancer – are particularly severe, STD screening, vaccination and other prevention strategies for sexually active women are among our highest public health priorities," said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. And Dr. John Douglas, director of CDC's Division of STD Prevention, said that "STD screening and early treatment can prevent some of the most devastating effects of untreated STDs."

Screening and treatment – sounds like half a plan, the half that focuses on minimizing the severity of the health consequences for teens who do become infected. What about medically accurate prevention education that would help teens avoid getting infected in the first place? Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, called for that which CDC staffers studiously avoided mentioning: "Today's news that more than three million teenage girls have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) emphasizes the need for real comprehensive sex education," Richards said in a statement. "The national policy of promoting abstinence-only programs is a $1.5 billion failure, and teenage girls are paying the real price."

But education is not just about preventing new infections. It will be doctors who will be doing the screening, the vaccinating, and the dispensing of the early treatment to teen girls. How can teens get involved in and take ownership of their health status? It can't happen without access to medically accurate health information.

Proponents of the HPV vaccine have stressed the importance of vaccinating girls before they become sexually active. Why? The vaccine is most effective for women who are not yet infected with any of the four strains of HPV that the vaccine protects against. And the same holds true for education — it's needed before the onset of sexual activity. Studies show that girls who use contraception at their first sexual encounter are far more likely than those who don't to use contraception consistently throughout their lives. Teens need to learn to take control of their sexual health before they're sexually active.

The conference also highlighted two other studies that demonstrate the need for a more comprehensive approach to sexual and reproductive health services for teens. One of the studies found that while a vast majority of sexually active 15- to 24-year-old women receive either contraceptive or STI services (82%), only 39% receive both. A second study found that just 27% of young women who were seeking emergency contraception, an indicator or recent unprotected sex, were tested for Chlamydia or gonorrhea. The message is clear: when young women turn to health centers for care, reproductive health and sexual health services aren't sufficiently integrated and, like our HIV prevention work overseas, miss significant opportunities for prevention education.

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  • http://www.bbarash.com invalid-0

    Hello –
    I am an independent documentary maker in Atlanta, Georgia with long years of experience as medical and science news producer at CNN.

    I just read your blog about the need for more sex-ed for teen girls and more REALISTIC sex ed content.

    I wanted to let you know of my new work, a feature-length documentary called The AIDS Chronicles – Here to Represent.

    The AIDS Chronicles – Here to Represent is a unique look at the social and cultural impact of HIV/AIDS on the urban African American population, with Atlanta as the representative city.

    This work is told through the actions and thoughts of those who are infected or affected by the disease and the comments of African American health experts who dispel the myths and reveal the facts about HIV/AIDS.

    It includes segments on:
    African American women and HIV/AIDS
    Black Gay Men
    The Churches
    The convergence of poverty, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS

    Some of the most important social and cultural aspects of HIV/AIDS in the adult African American urban population are covered in very real, personal, balanced and accurate scenes. And the African American experts who comment, including Phill Wilson (Black AIDS Institute), Mindy Fullilove, MD (Columbia University), David Malebranche, MD (Emory University/Grady Hospital & The President’s Commission on HIV/AIDS) and Bill Jenkins, Ph.D (Morehouse College Center on Health Disparities) do no hold back on their assessment of the current situation and the basic preventive actions necessary.

    You can see more about this work on my website http://www.bbarash.com

    Watch excerpts on YouTube



    Please let me know if you have any questions about my film.

    Bailey Barash

  • invalid-0

    I have watched the failure of our schools, parents, and community when educating teens about sex. I have been teaching for eleven years, and the reality today is the same as when I first started teaching- kids don’t talk to their parents about sex because it is awkward, parents don’t want to think about their children as being sexually active, and most importantly, girls are so misguided by their own emotions and the boys they are trying to date…we need women with just as much fame and clout as a lot of the male influences out there speaking to and with young girls- and empowering them instead of scaring them.

    There are so many negative influences in pop culture today, disguised as entertainment, but the messages are getting through loud and clear. Mainstream music/movies/games glorify a lot of behaviors that are dangerous…and children are starting to cross lines with risky behaviors at much younger ages. Every single female I teach is sexually active, none of them are over 16. Since we can’t seem to stop the trend, maybe we should be alittle more graphic with the message about unprotected sex- I remember the health department posters full of all the different sexually transmitted diseases- with real photos of both men and women’s genitalias. That really did a number on me, but I wished I had seen it in junior high.
    Children don’t need to be sheltered, they need to be informed- this isn’t about sex anymore, it is about living a healthy life and avoiding an illness that is lifelong.