High STD rates show we should improve sex ed

Published 12:30 am Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It’s a topic no one really wants to talk about, but it’s one that needs addressing, especially after it made national headlines again this week – sexually transmitted diseases.

Alabama’s Capitol City had the nation’s highest rates for gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.

Montgomery was four times the national rate, according to 2013 numbers from the Centers for Disease Control, but we’d be remiss if we ignored the fact that Covington County is 1.28 times the national rate.

The national rate is 577 cases per 100,000 people.

And while Covington County isn’t one of the top STD-ridden counties, it’s not toward the bottom, either.

For years, government entities and religious-based organizations have funneled money into abstinence-only programs. These programs have proven ineffective.

Researchers at the University of Washington conducted a study comparing the sexual health risks of youth who were exposed to various types of sex education.

They found that young people who received comprehensive sex education were considerably less likely to report teen pregnancy than their counterparts who did not receive sex ed.

Statistics from dosomething.org, one of the largest organizations for young people and change, show that there are about 20 million new sexually transmitted infections in the United States each year.

Young people between 15 and 24 account for 50 percent of all new STDs.

Three years ago, gonorrhea rates were the highest among this age group and the rates were highest among women age 14-20 and 15-19.

There is clearly an issue with STDs and it’s something that we must not turn a blind eye to. We cannot simply preach abstinence and assume it will go waway.

Sure, we can encourage teenagers to wait until marriage, but when statistics show that nearly two-thirds of high schoolers are engaging in sex, it’s ignorant and irresponsible for adults to not consider other methods.

According to the CDC, research shows that well-designed and well-implemented HIV/STD prevention programs can decrease sexual risk behaviors among students, including:

• Delaying first sexual intercourse;

• Reducing the number of sex partners;

• Decreasing the number of times students have unprotected sex;

• Increasing condom use.

Community members often use the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. Sex education requires families, communities and other sectors of society pulling together and promoting healthy choices.

To me, that means encouraging abstinence, but being in tune enough to realize that teenagers don’t always make the best choices. Therefore, it’s important to teach adolescents to use condoms if they choose to engage in sexual activities. If they think they are at risk for STDs, get checked to help stop the spread.

We don’t live in the 1950s anymore. It’s time we get out of that mindset and start educating our kids.