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Today the Centers for Disease Control released a study concluding that approximately one in four women between the ages of 14 and 19 living in America are infected with at least one sexually transmitted infection, such as HPV (human papillomavirus), genital herpes, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis. The study also determined that the rate of infection was higher in African-American women than Caucasian women.
If anyone out there refuses to believe that reproductive health services and education in America are lacking, particularly when it comes to teenagers, I urge you to look at this study and find a way to argue otherwise.
The importance of regular STI screenings cannot be stressed enough- and getting tested must be both accessible and affordable. Likewise with Gardasil, the new HPV vaccine. Of course, there's correct and consistent use of condoms, too.
However, it's not enough to make these things accessible and affordable- we have to know about them in the first place. When accurate or trust-worthy sources of information about sex and sexually transmitted infections are drowned out by conflicting and harmful messages about human sexuality, it's difficult to know that there's no shame- or should be no shame- in having sex and getting tested for STIs and using condoms- that, in fact, by using condoms and getting screened on a regular basis is showing that you care about your own health- and the health of your partner.
Despite its depressing conclusion, I have hope that this study will help raise awareness about STIs and the importance of safer sex and regular screenings, both for teenagers, parents, health professionals, and everyone else, too.