The Risks of Sex

This is no shocker: Today’s youth are having sex; 1 in 4 teens gets a sexually transmitted disease (STD) each year.

Willow Sanders

Willow Sanders

This is no shocker either: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that “half of all sexually active young people in the United States will get a sexually transmitted disease (STD) by age 25—and most won’t know it!” (CDC)

There are 20 million STDs occurring each year in the United States. Half are among the youth. (CDC) More than 20 sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have been identified. They are passed from person-to-person during vaginal, anal or oral sex. These diseases cause illness and if left untreated, even death.

Dr. Jonathan Mermin, Director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis Prevention calls this situation an epidemic. So many people are carriers of an STD, but because they have no symptoms, they simply pass the disease to whomever they have sex with. “You can’t tell if someone has an STD by looking at them.”

Almost all STDs spread through vaginal sex can be spread through oral and anal sex as well. (CDC)

Some of the STDs have no cure--HPV, AIDS/HIV, Genital Herpes. It is important to understand that HPV can be passed from skin cell to skin cell, unlike other STDs.

How can STDs be prevented?

Over and over again, the Center for Disease Control states that the only way to avoid STDs is abstinence—don’t have sex. Can the youth truthfully abstain? “Yes, young people can control themselves.” states Willow Sanders, Director of Student Services at Protect the Heart, a branch of Care Net of the Treasure Coast.

Many of the youth already do practice self-control. It is a matter of discipline and commitment. The mindset of abstinence until marriage is growing in the United States. The majority of these young people have been influenced by their parents—who have voiced the necessity of waiting. What a parent says, matters, and demonstrates care for his or her child, whether the teen responds positively or not. Likewise, parents must remember that their own actions speak as loudly as their words.

When should parents begin the “abstinence is worth it” conversation with their youth?

Willow Sanders relates that peer pressure to act out sexually begins in the middle school years. Experimenting starts then, and the sexual world is open to their eyes through sexting and snapchat videos. Access to the internet and curiosity expose tweens and teens to porn and sodomy at a new level mankind has never seen before. By high school, students are often behaving irresponsibly, even becoming careless. “Guard rails,” Sanders says, “are still up though—home, parents, grandparents, etc.. Upon entering college and adulthood, the guard rails come down. Without a true commitment, the pressure of a sexually-charged culture will win."

The brain of a youth is not fully developed and mature until around age 25. Thinking about sex can become confusing.

Willow Sanders states that any youth who has had sex must be STD tested. “Many of the youth are carriers of STDs, but show no signs of disease; sometimes STDs mask themselves, lying dormant for years.”

Friends with benefits aren’t so beneficial after all. Neither is casual sex casual.

Sanders goes on, “Many college-aged youth do not get tested, for fear of their parents finding out and because of social stigma.” Sanders adds, “Psychological studies show that sex without commitment can lead to depression and becoming a dropout. The 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey illuminates “a negative association between sexual risk behaviors and academic achievement.” Willow Sanders continues, “Sex is more than just physical body parts connecting together. There are also mental, emotional, social and spiritual components.” The two become one flesh, sharing their most intimate self with another person.

Protect the Heart (PTH) explains a safe route around the chaotic fallout of sex without marriage to both parents and youth. The organization asserts that youth must be proactive, developing healthy boundaries against temptation. Protect the Heart exists as a community resource, providing abstinence and sexual risk avoidance education to schools and the public. They also give direction for counseling to youth with pornography addictions.

Protect the Heart administers free and confidential STD testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV to both minors and adults at Care Net of the Treasure Coast, Florida locations (Fort Pierce and Stuart).

Willow Sanders is a certified Sexual Risk Avoidance counselor through ASCEND, formerly the National Abstinence Education Association in Washington D.C. Ms. Sanders also sits on the association’s national advisory board. She has been an employee of Care Net of the Treasure Coast since 2004.

Care Net of the Treasure Coast is an affiliate of Care Net National located in Virginia. There are over 1100 Care Net affiliates nationwide. The national organization “supports one of the largest networks of pregnancy centers in North America and runs the nation’s only real-time call center providing pregnancy decision coaching.” Care Net centers also provide free pregnancy tests, options counseling, information on abortion procedures and risks, STD/STI testing, limited ultrasound services, maternity/baby supplies, and job and housing assistance. Contact Care Net of the Treasure Coast at (772) 871-2211.

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