By Lucy Cipriani
Over the past few years, an unprecedented amount of American teens are falling victim to sexually transmitted diseases due to a lack of education and testing. According to Time Magazine, only 22 states require both sex and HIV education. This is becoming a bigger issue due to the alarmingly high number of STDs reported to the government. Studies from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also show that one in two sexually active people will contract an STD by the age of 25. These statistics are the terrifying reality facing the young people of the United States.
A lack of testing and diagnoses greatly contributes to the exponential spread of STDs. When 35 sexually active Novato High students were asked if they have been tested for an STD, 46% of females and 73% of males said they have not. According to the National Institute of Health, diseases like HPV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and herpes are becoming increasingly common with people ages 15-25. Why aren’t young people in the U.S. getting tested? Perhaps reasons of confidentiality? Embarrassment? It definitely is not for lack of access.
The Novato Teen Clinic on Redwood Blvd provides free and confidential STD testing and treatment. At the clinic, students also have access to free birth control methods and sessions with a doctor, available in both Spanish and English.
Physicians studying the spread of STDs frequently blame a lack of sex education in American schools. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that in most U.S. states, fewer than half of high schools and just one in five middle schools teach all the essential sex education topics recommended by the CDC. This is alarming considering the vast importance of being familiar with how to practice safe sex.
Leslie Kantor, Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America provided some insight on this important topic.
“Sex education is essential to adolescents’ overall health and well-being,” Kantor explained. “The fact that young people in so many states are being deprived of information critical to their sexual health is unacceptable. We hope that the new CDC data serves as a wakeup call that we can and must do better in giving young people the sex education they need and deserve.”
It was apparent that some Novato High students felt they had never received a sufficient amount of sex education.
“I wish they went into more detail and made sure that we knew what we were doing to protect ourselves,” senior Lily Raabe explained. “The truth is, highschoolers are going to have sex, so the school should do a better job teaching us how to be safe.”
It is important to keep in mind that STDs like herpes, chlamydia, and HPV are very real, and more common than you think. To protect yourself and others, remember to get tested regularly and practice safe sex. The Novato Teen Clinic can be reached at (415) 985-5012 and is open each Monday for teens from 1:30 to 5 p.m.