By Nurse Diane
When I was in nursing school, I worked at the school's health clinic. It was just starting up, so the clinic was a mobile nursing unit. It was a big RV that had been converted to a traveling clinic complete with a classroom, exam room and waiting room. The nurse practitioner, myself, an office staff member, and driver would travel to different schools in a 100 mile radius once a week to perform various tasks such as checking blood pressure, doing simple blood tests the occasional physical exam, but mostly education. The number one subject the kids wanted to learn about was sex related topics. Not only did we instruct about disease and pregnancy, we also provided condoms, and instructions for using them.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are 20 million new cases of STD are a year with a cost of 19 billion dollars to treat them. I also learned that one out of every two sexually active people will contract a sexually transmitted disease by the age of 25, and some may not even be aware that they have a disease.
The good news is that most STDs are treatable, and many are curable – early detection through testing is key. Yet, stigma, inconsistent or incorrect condom use, access to health care, and a combination of other factors contribute to high rates of STDs among teens and young adults.
Research has shown that most adolescents feel more comfortable discussing this problem with their primary care physician, an with the person who initiates the discussion, and is knowledgeable about the diseases, causes cures and prevention.
Sexually transmitted diseases are a real problem; if you have any young teens in your family, don't be afraid to bring up this discussion with them. Don't judge them or show disproval, just provide them with answers, and the tools to prevent sexually transmitted disease. If you or other parent doesn’t feel comfortable having this discussion, talk with their primary care physician about bringing up this matter to them.
Since I routinely had these discussions in the course of my job, I was comfortable having it with my son. You want to make sure that you have the discussion in a non-threatening place. I decided to take my son to the Dairy Queen and have banana splits. The talk went well, until a catholic nun walked up to our table, and had been listening to our discussion. This proved a little embarrassing, and put an end to our conversation, but makes for a funny story now.
The most important thing is to bring up the subject, don’t be afraid to answer any questions, and if you don't know the answer, you can find out together. Show your support to your kids, and help stop the spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases!