- 19 million new Sexually Transmitted Infections will occur this year
- STI’s cost the health care industry $15 Billion annually
- More than half of all of us will get one at some time in our lives
- Two-thirds of new cases are in people under 25 years of age
On Monday, I gave a three-hour workshop entitled, “The Local Impact of STI’s” (Sexually Transmitted Infections) for area counselors, social workers, school nurses and public health professionals. My three objectives were that participants would learn more about the most common STI’s, understand the emotional impact of a diagnosis, and see the importance of connecting patients/clients to resources for education and support.
Note: STI’s and STD’s are the same thing. “STD” is still the most widely used term, but there is a shift to using “Infection” instead of “Disease.” The term “disease” implies that a person is sick, but most people with STI’s don’t know that they are infected and/or don’t experience noticeable symptoms.
- 20% of Americans have Genital Herpes
- 90% of the people with Herpes don’t know they have it
Since I had several school nurses in attendance, we spent some time talking about the sex ed that kids receive in schools. We discussed reasons why the STI rate among American teens is so much higher than in other countries.
- The U.S. teen Chlamydia rate is 20 times higher than in France
- The U.S. teen Gonorrhea rate is 74 times higher than in France
Although the age at which young people begin sexual activity is about the same, American teens have a higher pregnancy rate, higher abortion rate, and higher birth rate than most industrialized nations. But why?
A big factor is condom usage. True, condoms don’t offer 100% protection against STI’s, but a condom or dental dam is far better than using nothing. Yet, Abstinence-Only Sex Education stresses the failure rate of condoms, and teachers cannot instruct teens on how to use one properly.
Theoretically, abstinence would be 100% reliable protection against Sexually Transmitted Infections, but…
- In one study, “virgins” had the same rate of STI’s as sexually active teens
- In communities with a large number of teens pledging abstinence, there’s a higher rate of STI’s (9% vs 5.5%)
So, what accounts for the large numbers of Americans, especially teenagers, who contract a Sexually Transmitted Infection each year? I think one important factor is the love/hate relationship our society has with sex. On one hand, we produce billions of dollars worth of porn and export it all over the world, and on the other hand we’re still pitching a fit about Janet Jackson’s breast exposed for 2 seconds.
We need to become more comfortable thinking and talking about sex. The obsession/repulsion reaction to sex has many damaging implications, including the the very real problem of Sexually Transmitted Infections. Not only do STI’s cause physical pain, but they cause emotional pain as well.
- In men, STI’s increased the overall risk of depression by 50%
- In women, STI’s increased the risk of depression by 80%
What you don’t know can hurt you.