14 Days of Love Day 6: Catch Feelings, Not STIs

Isabel Wilder, Senior Copy Editor

The growing epidemic of sexually-transmitted infections, or STIs, has impacted the lives of millions, having only become more pervasive in recent years. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, about 20 million new cases of infections arise each year, impacting the lives of over 110 million Americans. The most prevalent STIs, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, often go undetected due to sometimes invisible symptoms and improper sexual education. This increasing number of STIs can also be attributed to the stigma associated with discussing sexual activity and budget cuts for resources or clinics (like planned parenthood) available for screenings.

At Miami Palmetto Senior High School, the Health Information Project, or HIP, serves as a program to educate teens on a multitude of life lessons, and includes  curriculum on the spread and prevention of STIs. The program helps close the gap between ignorance and safe sex education, preparing students on how to avoid the contraction of an infection and how to detect them. 

“The HIP curriculum includes eight  modules in its course, with a module specifically designed for discussing sexual health. In it, we include teaching the freshman about different kinds of STIs, what they are, their symptoms and how to avoid them,” senior and HIP president Eowyn Osorio said. “We also have a quiz during this module to ensure that they are learning what they can about sexual health, a very large part of this being STIs.”

While some STIs may go undetected, other symptoms do present themselves in an obvious manner. The symptoms can include sores, bumps or rashes on the affected areas, unusual discharge, pain or a fever, according to the Mayo Clinic. Even if one is unsure, they should always get a check-up just in case, rather than leave an infection untreated. As mentioned by the CDC, without treatment, STIs can result in lifelong afflictions, the contraction of HIV, the further spread of STIs or death.

“When it comes to STIs there are many ways to avoid spreading them. Most contraceptives such as birth control pills do not help protect from sexually-transmitted diseases; however, condoms can be used during sex to help protect against spreading STIs,” Osorio said. “Although most people do not like to hear this option, something people can do to prevent STIs is to remain abstinent, therefore not having the opportunity to receive an STI.”

Rather than defaulting to  word-of-mouth from older siblings or friends, teens should always fall back on the safe-sex education taught in schools. Otherwise, one may believe the misconceptions they hear, which could result in the unforeseen contraction of diseases, despite attempts to be safe.

“There are definitely misconceptions people have that lead to an increase to the spread of diseases. A big thing people believe is that STIs cannot be received during oral sex. This is false and there are definitely diseases that can be transmitted through oral sex such as gonorrhea and herpes,” Osorio said. “Another misconception is that HIV can only be contracted by men who have sex with other males; studies have shown that a third of HIV carriers are women.”

To incite change and decrease the number of STIs in the U.S., the CDC states that all healthcare providers should make screenings standardized amongst regular health check-ups and treatments, local and state governments should allocate more funds to healthcare centers that provide free care and information on sexual health especially in impoverished communities and should decrease the stigma surrounding sexual health by openly discussing and educating people on the topic and by making contraceptives such as condoms more available.

“Overall, I think it’s very important that everyone is educated on STIs. They affect millions of people a year, and in various negative ways,” Osorio said. “I strongly believe that this type of topic should be seen as less taboo, because having discussions about STIs has shown to help prevent them in the long run. Fortunately, there are sources such as the HIP website as well as STD helplines for people of any age to call in regards to questions and concerns with STIs.”

 

For further information on sexual health and the prevention of STIs, please visit the HIP website at https://behip.org.

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