Too High A Price
Your family doctor’s office is a good place to discuss some of those private things that may be difficult to bring up elsewhere. Sexual activity is one of those private areas, but one that we should bring up more, especially with our adolescent patients. It is becoming more important that we be up front with the real risk, the real price tag of engaging in any sexual activity at an early age. Teen years are full of challenges and opportunities. We have always been aware of the emotional hardships young people must face when they happen to find themselves as parents, needing to put off school, training, travel or a better job. But as it turns out, from a medical standpoint, pregnancy is fairly easy to address. Infections and diseases are a much more serious problem, and ones that have exploded in numbers among young people over the past 10 years. Parents as well as medical providers need to continually stress this as much as we can to make an impact on our young people that early sexual relationships carry with it a price tag that is becoming increasingly steep. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have always been around. A teenager or young adult choosing to have sex, outside of a single committed lifelong partner, 30 years ago, may have faced a risk that 1 in 35 people like them had some sort of STD. 15 years ago, that number increased to 1 in15. In our present time, the numbers of sexually active teens or young adults face an extremely high risk of contact with an STD. It is estimated that one in 4 sexually active persons has been infected with herpes. A study on a well-known college campus a recent study showed that 60% of the co-eds were infected with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV- a cause of genital warts and a significant risk factor for cervical cancer). 30 years ago, most STDs encountered were bacterial, and were treatable with antibiotics. Many of the more recent diseases are of the viral type, none of which have any cure, many of which will affect or recur in a person for the rest of their lives. The prevalence of some STDs has become so high in recent years, it is estimated that 1 in 5 persons in this group has some STD, and, the average person with an STD has 2 or more infections at the same time. From a medical standpoint, we feel this is an extremely high risk to take, and one we would like all of our patients to realize. Although condom usage has increased dramatically with good educational programs, and this is a good thing, there continues to be an alarming increase in STDs and it is becoming evident that condom use does not guarantee 100 % protection from any of these diseases. It may actually offer only minimal protection from something as dangerous as HPV. It is kind of like wearing a seat belt while driving, which of course offers you good protection. However, if you are driving at 100 MPH, it may not really help you as much as you would like in the event of an accident. Sexual contact, including even oral sex, outside of a single, faithful, lifetime partner, is kind of like driving at 100 MPH. Sure, we’d recommend wearing a seatbelt, but it would be much better if you slow down!
Teenagers and young adults who are having sex may not be fully informed of past experience or prior exposure in their partners. The partners may not even know they are infected, as many of the infections may have no symptoms. Unfortunately, the girls are more at risk for the long term complications of these “asymptomatic” infections regarding later infertility or risks of developing cervical cancer. Even the AIDS virus can be transmitted only to show up years later. In the midst of the terrible AIDs stories coming out of Africa, there is some hope in experiences in Uganda, where there has been a concerted effort to stress to young people to abstain from sex before marriage, be faithful to one, lifelong partner and use condoms if that doesn’t happen. Extensive condom promotion in other areas has not seemed to stem the tide of the spread of AIDS as much as the message of abstinence and faithfulness.
So, from a medical perspective, we want our patients to
know and understand the risks they take if they choose to have sex before they
have taken the time to establish life goals, finish their education and form a
long lasting and trusted relationship with a single partner.
Medically speaking, it is important for parents to inform their children
that sex before marriage carries a very high price tag.
Everyone should be well informed about the risks, before they decide if
it is worth it.
Recent report from the Center for Disease Control – we
are seeing a trend reversal – for the first time in 10 years – a majority of
high school students are NOT having sex.
This message is the one that is helping them to make this choice.
Here is a great website where you can get more information
if you are interested. You should always feel free to speak with your
doctor, NP or PA about any of these topics.
Joseph J. Moore, PA-C
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