Did you know April is National STD Awareness Month? If you've read any of the articles at EmpowHER, you're probably aware of STDs. Still, in honor of other public health organizations urging people to educate themselves about and get tested for STDs, I'd like to recap how STD awareness fits into the larger conversation about sexual health.
The U.S. is a country with one of the highest rates of STD infection in among developing nations. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 new million infections occur every year and 48 percent of these infections will occur among young people.
These devastating stats suggest that there are a few reasons for the STD epidemic:
1. Lack of education: Living in a country where we are continued to be plagued by a stigma against talking about safe sex and sexual health practices means that we are limiting the education we provide for young people about STDs.
2. Lack of available resources: If young people are being disproportionately affected by STDs, it means there is limited access to the right kinds of resources. Are communities getting access to affordable contraceptives? Condoms? Birth control? Young people need to be able to access resources about sexual health from their schools and communities, from their church, youth centers and homes. If we had more centers that offered sliding scale resources for individuals, with accurate information instead of guilt trips about having sex, we may be able to work towards preventing STDs.
3. Lack of comprehensiveness. It's not enough to just offer some kind of sex education - we have to provide accurate and comprehensive education that is geared towards specific communities. It's not just about putting on a condom and instructing how to do so. Particularly among youth, education needs to be provided that discusses relationships, mental health, break ups, signs of abuse, how to take care of your body, masturbation, communicating with your partner and other skills.