Telling teens about STDs used to be a viable way to get them to consider the consequences of sex. Many abstinence educators, including myself, were accused of using STDs as scare tactics. Yet, many teens weren’t realizing the implications that with multiple sex partners came multiple opportunities for shared sexually transmitted diseases.
Abstinence education taught students about sexual integrity. It wasn’t just about sex, but about making healthy choices now—which included being STD-free if they chose to save sex for a time in their future marriage.
As sexual abstinence ideals became less desirable in sex education in America’s classrooms, those STD warnings also became less frequent. Thus, when the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released their 2018 STD report, it wasn’t shocking to see STDs on the rise.
The most disturbing is that 15-25-year-olds only make up 20% of the sexually active population, yet that age group contracted half of all the reported STDs.
I can still hear myself telling classrooms of young students about the dangers of chlamydia—and how it can be hard to detect in females—often going untreated until it can damage the reproductive capabilities of its victim. Now chlamydia has increased 3% in just one year with more than 1.7 million reported cases.
Other treatable STDs have increased too: gonorrhea by 5% (580,000 cases) and syphilis by 14%. Sadly, babies contracting syphilis congenitally increased by 40%.
While schools are becoming less welcoming to the abstinence-only message, we can share the message outside of school—on social media, in conversations with other parents, and certainly as we talk with our kids and grandkids.
The latest CDC STD report just magnifies what keeping silent will do—our kids will suffer.