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Archive for Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Straight talk about STDs and prevention

November 11, 2008

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Wes: In September we discussed issues related to contraception. A reader asked that we give equal attention to the problem of sexually transmitted diseases. They're all pretty well known so I won't belabor the sexual hygiene, except to bust a few myths I see frequently in conversations with teens.

It may seem counterintuitive, but in discussing STDs with teens, it's vital to avoid proposing disease as a counterpoint to sexual activity. While that's obviously true, nothing turns off the nerve connections between the ears and the teenage brain faster than dire warnings of death and dismemberment.

What does work is straightforward talk about preventative measures and what risks are unavoidable in sexual contact. You can point out that the only real way to avoid infection is abstinence - one indisputable fact. However, as we discussed in September, teenagers simply don't choose the safest of paths. So focusing on "risk management" may give you the best shot at effective communication. For those not so inclined, you can skip the rest of this column. However, I see a lot of families who believe their children are abstinent when the facts are otherwise.

Here are some facts to share with teens - and some myths to bust. Condoms are helpful in the prevention of HIV/AIDS and the much more common infections of gonorrhea and chlamydia. While they aren't 100 percent perfect, they will significantly reduce risk if used correctly. Because of the way these infections are transmitted, condoms are of little use in protection from HPV and Herpes.

Many people carry one of the many strains of HPV and don't even know it - especially guys who will rarely have symptoms. Several of those strains cause cervical cancer, which kills more women every year than HIV/AIDS. The only good news here is that a vaccine called Guardasil exists that protects against most of the cancer-causing strains.

All families should discuss this vaccine with their doctors well before their girls hit puberty and well before the issue of sexuality has really become a concern. Guardasil won't stop all forms of HPV, however, and the reality is that most sexually active women will end up with one of the other strains by the time they are 30.

Likewise, Herpes comes in two strains - simplex 1 and 2. However, one can contract either strain orally or genitally. Simplex 2 is generally the longest lasting and most serious, requiring medication to suppress outbreaks over the course of a lifetime. Herpes is easy to get and incredibly annoying and emotionally upsetting to those who contract it. The only way for anyone to limit their exposure to herpes and HPV is to limit the number of partners and have a thorough discussion with any potential partner to assess risk. Icky - I know, but a core part of responsible sexuality.

If a teenager can't have it, that teen should reconsider whether he or she is ready for sex. If you put it this way, your teen may listen much more closely than if you propose that their only shot is to never have sex until ... (fill in the blank).

Parents should also look at the literature. A particularly disturbing study from Ohio State traced the sexual histories within a particular high school and found that from a disease transmission standpoint, most sexually active students were linked by only a few degrees of separation. By drawing a network between all the sexual partners disclosed confidentiality, they were able to prove a wide transmission pattern of potential sexual disease throughout 288 students - a huge percentage of the population - and into the surrounding community. This little factoid has caused more than one careless young person to shudder in my office and render a plaintiff "eewww."

Kelly: It is not surprising that in a time of sexual promiscuity and oversexed teenagers, our society is facing a marked increase in STDs. Only when we have to bear the consequences of our actions are we truly willing to change our habits. It is sad to see that in a world of prosperity and development, we as sexual beings are taken aback by the ongoing issues of STDs. Sexual promiscuity has become something of a social norm. Sex requires responsibility, and some are too immature to handle it.

For parents, I think it's essential to talk to your children about this matter. The best defense you can give your children use against STDs is knowledge and preparation. Even though this is a somewhat embarrassing subject, do not let it prevent you from having the talk with your children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 65 million Americans are living with a sexually transmitted disease. Some have STDs but are completely unaware. Either they were never educated on this subject or they have the mindset that it can't happen to them. If you are sexually active, be sure to get tested regularly. As serious as it is to pass your driver's test, it's twice as important to pass your STDs test.

Then there are those who are fully aware of their STDs and rather than seek medical treatment, continue to have unprotected sex. The last thing we need in our society is a greater rate of STDs. I would consider this one of the most selfish, immature acts you can commit.

To prevent STDs, please remember the precautions that need to be taken. Limit yourself on your sexual partners, do not forget to use condoms for disease control and get tested. These steps may seem minor but they are the key to maintaining a healthy society.

Next week: Adderall abuse. What's new and what's not.

- Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Kelly Kelin is a senior at Free State High School. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues (limited to 200 words) to doubletake@ljworld.com. All correspondence is strictly confidential.

Comments

jsjsdude06 6 years, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

canyon_wren 6 years, 1 month ago

I believe the word wanted is "plaintive"--not "plaintiff"--unless, of course, you are in court!

gr 6 years, 1 month ago

Could apply in a similar case where the situation was in the doctor's office after the fact where the plaintiff was plaintive.

termtech215 6 years, 1 month ago

The vaccine is spelled Gardasil, without the "u".

gr 6 years, 1 month ago

"which is what computer composing mistakes usually are rather than actual misusage of a word. "Like wren said, I had no intention of "beating" any writer.But, now that you brought it up.... Could you please explain what a "computer composing mistake" is? Is that like a typewriter composing mistake or a pen composing mistake? Really, I don't know what you mean by a "computer composing mistake". You pointed out typos are one kind. What are they in general terms?

Escapee 6 years, 1 month ago

Obviously...you read the column.... Is it that necessary to point out typos...which is what computer composing mistakes usually are rather than actual misusage of a word. In the electronic world is it only ok for a blogger to make an occasional mistake??? You guys are constantly beating on this writer, and I'm wondering why.

canyon_wren 6 years, 1 month ago

So do many other "award" winning authors!

canyon_wren 6 years, 1 month ago

I would hardly call using the word "plaintiff" instead of "plaintive" a TYPO! Obviously, you have never done any proofreading, escapee. If you have kept track of any posts I have made to this site, you would be aware that I more often than not compliment Dr. Wes on his good advice.--so don't accuse ME of "constantly beating on this writer." And, of course, gr was just being clever with MY comment--no real "beating" involved there, etc. I would say you have some problems with a chip on your own shoulder???

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years, 1 month ago

In paragraph two, Dr. Wes says, "It may seem counterintuitive, but in discussing STDs with teens, it's vital to avoid proposing disease as a counterpoint to sexual activity."But then in paragraph nine, he states, "This little factoid (that disease transmission is linked by only a few degrees of separation) has caused more than one careless young person to shudder in my office and render a plaintiff 'eewww.'"So what is it, Dr. Wes? Are teenagers motivated to remain abstinent or have fewer sexual partners because of possible disease, or not?

Ragingbear 6 years, 1 month ago

And take Ritalin. Lots and lots of Ritalin.

gr 6 years, 1 month ago

I do believe, Escapee has a chip composing mistake.

denak 6 years, 1 month ago

Before I make the following comment, I would like to just say that this post is not in anyway a critisicm of alm77's post. I just thought I would talk about the "the talk."In my opinion, there should never be "the talk." One monolithic talk. There should be an on going conversations starting from the time they are infants to the time they go to college. (or even post college)Now before the perverts jump on me and say "ewww you want to talk to infants about sex" The answer is no, I don't." What I think is that parents should answer their children truthfully right from the start. When your toddler looks at you and asks, "What's this?" and pulls out his penis, the parent should say "That's your penis" It isn't a "woo-woo" or one of the silly names people call it. It is a penis or a vagina or labia or clitoris. (Hopefully, this post won't get deleted for using the correct anatomical names)If a parent is too embarrassed to say the correct name when their children are 2, how are they ever going to be able to honestly and comprehensively talk to their children about STDs, pregnancy, and puberty?The days of "the talk" are gone. If you want your child to listen to you about sex and everything that comes with it, the good and the bad, you have to have a constant dialogue with them. About what you expect from them and making sure that they know that they can come to you if they have questions or concerns.I think the reason kids are so confused and ignorant is that there are too many double standards and mixed messages out there and the only way a parent can combat that is to talk to their children consistently throughout the child's childhood.Dena:0)

CarterFaucheaux 6 years, 1 month ago

"alm77 (Anonymous) says:Back on track: I've told my kids not to share hairbrushes due to the risk of head lice and that's worked, so would the same reasoning not work with sex? I've always been able to be pretty blatant and nonchalant while talking to my kids about pretty much anything and while "the talk" hasn't come up yet, it's due soon and I'm feeling pretty confident."_______Hahaha! My sarcasm meter may be broken, but do you really think that sharing hairbrushes and having sex are similar temptations? If you were being serious, I think you need to put a little more thought into "the talk."

Escapee 6 years, 1 month ago

OMG, people! And I have a chip on my shoulder?? Wow, there's some confusion there.... And, no -- I would call a 'composing mistake' a 'composing mistake' -- whether on a typewriter, a computer, or a rock. Not a tough call.And, guess what? I've been an 'award winning author' for decades...and I often make those mistakes....

alm77 6 years, 1 month ago

Back on track... I've told my kids not to share hairbrushes due to the risk of head lice and that's worked, so would the same reasoning not work with sex? I've always been able to be pretty blatant and nonchalant while talking to my kids about pretty much anything and while "the talk" hasn't come up yet, it's due soon and I'm feeling pretty confident.

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