Risky Behavior, Terrible Consequences

December 10, 2009
Unlike love in the springtime, lust is always in the air. Lovely little presents can be given away with lust, presents that are commonly referred to as Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Granted, these aren’t the most fun to receive but hope alone doesn’t protect anyone.

“But I love my girlfriend; she would never lie to me about having an STD.” The truth is: everyone lies. Someone’s endearing girlfriend today could be his or her cheating ex tomorrow. People should always be safe, just in case. It’s easier to use protection than having to face consequences later on. Over all, “the most reliable way to avoid transmission of STDs is to abstain,” according to cdc.gov.

Only two STDs can be prevented without protection: Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. These are both liver diseases that last for at least a few weeks and can be prevented through a vaccine. Starting at the age of one, children are recommended for the Hepatitis A vaccine, the Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended to infants and older. Most people have already received this vaccine, but everyone should double check with their primary care doctor.

STDs aren’t only spread through all types of sex, but by contact with an infected area as well. By touching another person’s skin in their infected area, it’s possible to gain an STD. “Any exposure of a mucous membrane (e.g., mouth or eyes) or a break in the skin can pick up the viruses or bacteria that cause STDs,” said Ms. Virginia Wilkinson (Fairfax County Health Department). Like all diseases, these should be treated right away because they could get worse, which could lead to HIV or Herpes. No STD goes away by itself.

Diseases can also be transferred from a mother to a child during pregnancy. This may cause a still birth, low birth weight, eye infection, pneumonia, blood stream infection, neurological damage, blindness, deafness, acute hepatitis, meningitis, chronic liver disease, and cirrhosis. Many of these conditions can be treated if a woman is screened for STDs in the beginning and end of the pregnancy, and if the infections are caught at birth.
According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, 9.1 million cases of STD’s occur each year with people between the ages of 15 and 24. The recent survey also said that 47.8% of high school students participated in risky behavior by the year 2007. Of those high school students, 35% were currently active. Only 77.5% used protection last. Teenagers keep in mind; both practices are never 100%.

Everyone should inquire about STD information because it’s possible to obtain one without being sexually active. “Experts rate high school students’ knowledge of STDs at a C- or D,” said Ms. Wilkinson. The Herndon/Reston Heath Department has a walk-in STD clinic every Thursday from 1 until 3:30 P.M. for all who need testing or more information.
It’s important to speak to an adult if advice is needed. While friends are great to talk to, they cannot be certain about the dangers of sex who at such a young age. The school has a fantastic and confidential support system for students that would like to discuss issues. Ms. Wilkinson and counselors are always available to students in need.

By not treating sexually transmitted diseases, people are hurting themselves and possibly others. Diseases that go without treatment get worse throughout time and can eventually cause long-term health problems. Untreated STDs can also be given to others, including people who one may care about.

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