The newest numbers on STD rates here in United States have just come out, and things aren’t looking good. Aside from the fact that the United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world, it seems we are leading the way in STDs as well.
The newest numbers on STD rates here in United States have just come out, and things aren’t looking good.
Aside from the fact that the United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world, it seems we are leading the way in STDs as well.
The number of STD infections has been steadily rising in the United States for years. The rate of syphilis infections is currently on a seven-year streak of growth. Chlamydia has seen an increase of about 1,500 cases in the last three years here in Oregon.
These numbers are troubling, especially considering the fact that both syphilis and Chlamydia are curable diseases which means that a number of these are new cases popping up every year.
So why are we having trouble keeping cases of infection in check or even lowering them? Though there are a few factors involved, I believe that poor sex education is a major contributor to these numbers.
Here in the states we have two main forms of sexual education programs. The somewhat more popular program is called the Abstinence-Only Program, a program that was federally funded and endorsed by the Bush administration.
As is clear from the name, this lesson plan promotes abstinence until marriage and includes lessons on basic anatomy in regards to puberty. The plan does not, however, include information about safe sex practices.
Proponents of Abstinence-Only education claim that informing children about sex only encourages them to have it. This claim is based entirely on hearsay and is completely unproven.
The material for A.O. courses varies by school and district but all adhere to a few key principles—mainly that abstinence is the only sure way to prevent STD’s and unwanted pregnancy, and that sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.
Not only does this program leave out valuable information but it also misrepresents and skews facts to intentionally mislead students. In 2004 Congress did an investigation on the content of federally funded A.O. programs and found multiple instances in which statistics were purposefully skewed to create the illusion that condoms are ineffective at preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
The curriculum also has a habit of presenting opinion as fact. A few quotes from the 2004 investigation by Congress prove this claim, “One curriculum teaches that women need ‘financial support,’ while men need ‘admiration.'”
Another instructs: “Women gauge their happiness and judge their success on their relationships. Men’s happiness and success hinge on their accomplishments.” These are some gross generalizations.
Oddly enough there was an instance near Washington, D.C., last year involving the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum group who wanted to replace a local school’s existing sex education program with the Abstinence-Only program.
One of the problems they found with the existing program was that they “objected to lessons that categorize homosexuality as innate, saying they violate a state law that says teachings must be factual.”
The other commonly used program, which is slowly but surely growing here in Oregon, is the Comprehensive Sexual Education Program. This program shares the view that abstinence is the only 100 percent sure way to avoid STD’s and pregnancy, but it also teaches students how to have safe sex if and when they choose to do so.
A comprehensive program focuses on safety and educating children about sex, which can be a very taboo subject. This is the program we need to adopt for children going into puberty (though I’m sure some adults could benefit from it as well) if we want to lower our rates of STD infection and teen pregnancy.
Most teens are going to have sex—it’s about time parents accepted that. Withholding information about safe sex is the equivalent of sending a soldier into a war zone without a gun, helmet or Kevlar vest—and both instances can be deadly.
Those that do not receive education about how to protect themselves are much less likely to use a condom when they do decide to have sex, even if that’s not until they’re in their 20s.
Hopefully with the Obama administration (Obama is considered an advocate of comprehensive sex education) the sheltered attitudes and Abstinence-Only programs will become a thing of the past.
I like to consider Oregon, and Portland especially, a rather progressive state and city, and the rise in comprehensive sexual education programs is a good sign of this progression.
If this positive attitude toward a comprehensive sex education program continues, I predict that we will to see these unfortunately high numbers of STD cases start to decline.
Knowledge is never a bad thing and, in this case, it can save lives.