s

Alienum phaedrum torquatos nec eu, vis detraxit periculis ex, nihil expetendis in mei. Mei an pericula euripidis, hinc partem ei est. Eos ei nisl graecis, vix aperiri consequat an.

STD PREVENTION, EDUCATION, AND RESOURCES

Reviewed by Adel Karsou

“It’s not just one talk,” says Sarah Saxbe, MS, MSW, LISW-S, project manager for health education at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Ultimately, the goal should be to “be an askable parent,” that is available for questions about sex and healthy relationships.

The Sex Talk—it’s a rite of passage for parents and teens, and can easily be one of the most awkward conversation families have while raising children, possibly accompanied with eye-rolls, embarrassed sighs or fast exits. The thing is, discussions about sex and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), now more commonly referred to as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), should be ongoing. An open, honest discussion can build trust and allow teens to ask questions so they can get the facts.

This guide is to help parents talk to their teens about sex, and specifically STD prevention and testing. We’ll provide practical advice for talking about these topics, including some conversation starters. Also, you’ll learn important STD statistics and testing information to share with your teens.

I. Teen STD Facts

If you think your teen isn’t “the type” to get an STD, statistics say otherwise and STIs do not discriminate. Learn the facts about teens and STDs:

  • Half of all new STDs acquired in the U.S. are in young people age 15 to 24.
  • One in four sexually active adolescent females has an STD.
  • Nearly half of high schoolers have had sex at least once – and almost 40% did not use a condom during their last sexual encounter.
  • HPV can be deadly, but the vaccine reduced HPV by 83% in girls ages 15 to 19.
  • Two thirds of chlamydia cases are in young people ages 15 to 24.
  • STIs are at an all-time high, with six consecutive years of increases in chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), young people age 15 to 24 acquire half of all new STDs, and one in four sexually active adolescent females has an STD such as chlamydia or human papillomavirus (HPV).

When Jennifer Snyder, MD, family medicine physician at University Hospitals, Cleveland, Ohio, shares with parents that 50% of all new STD cases are in young people ages 15 to 24, “they are like, ‘That can’t be right,’” she says. “Many parents think their daughters or sons are not at risk.”

But that’s not the case. A National Center for Health Research survey showed almost half of all high schoolers have engaged in sexual intercourse at least once, and 15% report having sex with four or more partners. While safe sex and condom use is taught in schools, almost 40% said they did not use a condom during their last sexual encouter.

Before the HPV vaccine was introduced, Dr. Snyder says that more than half of girls age 16 to 26 were HPV positive. “That means, even if you only have sex on your wedding night, if your partner had sex with one other person before, you have a 1 in 4 chance of getting HPV,” she says. “Those odds are daunting.”

Eight years after the HPV vaccine was introduced,girls ages 15 to 19 with HPV decreased by 83%. HPV includes more than 200 related viruses, 40 of which are spread through sexual contact. Two of the most serious cause genital warts, while about a dozen can cause cancers. “Once you get the virus, it stays with you,” Saxbe says. “It could be dormant, but there is no cure. You can get an outbreak later in life and spread it to someone else. It’s a very serious virus and we have to educate kids and their parents about getting the vaccine.”

Dr. Snyder notes that the HPV vaccine protects against nine strains of HPV, including the worst ones that cause genital warts or cancers. “There’s no way of looking at someone to find out if they have HPV, herpes or chlamydia,” she says, naming two other common STDs among teens. In fact, “herpes is rampant,” she says. The CDC reports that one out of every six people ages 14 to 49 has herpes.

Chlamydia is the most frequently reported STI in the United States, and almost two-thirds of cases are among young people ages 15 to 24.

Overall, STIs are at an all-time high. The CDC’s most recent Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance (2019) showed an increase in STDs for the sixth consecutive year. Chlamydia was up by 19% since 2015, gonorrhea was up by 56% and syphilis cases increased by 74%.

“There is an epidemic with STIs, and teenagers are the age group most affected,” says Christy Altidor, associate director of adolescent health, National Coalition of STD Directors. “It’s important to not attach stigmas or use scare tactics and be open and honest about STDs when talking to your teens.”

II. Why It’s Important to Talk to Your Teen About STDs

STDs are taught in school, but often sex and STD education is outdated, or the messaging is focused on abstinence and not reality. “The sex talk they get in school is, ‘Don’t have sex before you get married,’” Dr. Snyder says. “People generally don’t follow that rule. So, let’s come from a place where we realize that is not most people’s reality and work with that.”

Curriculum often focuses on HIV/AIDs, Saxbe points out. “There is a lot of good information provided about wearing condoms, prevention of STIs transmission, talking to your partners, but there has been a lot of change over the years and new STIs have come on the horizon,” she says, pointing to HPV and the prevalence of herpes and chlamydia.

It’s important to talk to your teen about STDs because of teens’ high risk of contracting an STI. STDs have serious consequences if they go untreated. For example, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease that can result in infertility. Certain HPV strains cause cancer, and the CDC reports that almost all cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV.

Talking to your teen about STDs is critical for their health and wellbeing because the risk is real, and there are ways to prevent and test for STIs.

III. How to Talk to Your Teen About Sex

“We spend hours teaching our children how to tie their shoes, yet we teach them almost nothing about the sexual experience,” Dr. Snyder relates. Many parents she meets in her office have not had “the talk” with their teens, or their version of the discussion is, “Don’t have sex at all. Don’t get pregnant, or don’t get a girl pregnant. Don’t get into trouble.”

Avoidance of the subject can shut the door to future conversations, including a talk about STDs, prevention, testing and treatment. “If kids recognize their parents are not comfortable talking about sex, they will get information from the interent, their friends or siblings,” Dr. Snyder says. “The hard part for parents is, they say, ‘You can ask me anything,’ but they often don’t really mean it. When their child asks about sex and they overract and get upset, their kid doesn’t ask again.”

So, how can you begin having a discussion about sex? If you’re incredibly uncomfortable, try this approach. “You can say, ‘This is a hard talk to have, but I love you so much—I know it’s awkward,’” Dr. Snyder relates. “Talk about consent, maturity, love and the positive aspects of sexual relationships. Say, ‘I might not know all the answers, but if you come to me and ask, I’ll help you find the answers and keep you safe. We’ll do the best we can.’”

Keep it brief at first. “Maybe the first talk is five minutes because your kid feels uncomfortable, then you say, ‘I’ll ask again in a month if you have questions about what we talked about,’” Dr. Snyder suggests.

This approach “opens a door you can continue going back in,” Saxbe adds. “And, it shows you kids that you are paying attention and really listening and caring about them. A lot of times, they just want you to listen and make them feel, ‘I’m normal.’”

Avoid giving a lecture or using scare tactics. Stay calm. “Never act shocked or judgemental because kids will sense that you are uncomfortable or upset and they will cut you off,” Saxbe says. “They will shut down. So, parents really need to keep it together.”

Don’t show pictures of infections or shame your teen. “However, teaching the facts is important,” Saxbe says. “If you can teach the fact that one split-second decision can affect their lives.” Address the risk of pregnancy and STDs. Explain birth control, and consider making it accessible to your teens. “When you talk about the importance of using condoms, you can explain, ‘You need to worry about No. 1, and that is you,’ and, ‘If you should not have unprotected sex. The only reason not to is if you have been tested and are completely monogamous or if you are trying to have a baby.’”

Keep the dialogue open and communicate in different ways, such as texting. “Share an article or something you saw on Instagram with your teen, because they are on their phones a lot or they are not at home and having that open dialogue through text might be helpful,” says Jerrica Davis, senior manager of adolescent health, the National Coalition of STD Directors.

IV. Talking to Your Teen About STDs

Every year, half of new STD cases occur in young people ages 15 to 24. Explain the risk is real, and assure them there are easy ways to prevent STDs. Many teens are concerned about pregnancy and ask about condoms or birth control, Dr. Snyder says. “But they don’t think about STD risk.”

Share the statistics with your teen. “Be honest, open and explain that there are easy ways to get treated,” Altidor says. “Talk about what is going on in the country, what the numbers look like and what can be done to prevent STDs.”

Use a doctor’s visit to get the HPV vaccine as a way to open the door, Saxbe suggests. “You can explain how the vaccine is to prevent them from getting HPV, and there are ways to prevent themselves from getting other STIs,” she says.

Explain how STDs are transmitted. “Teach the fact that if you have sex with one person, let’s say it’s your first time, and they have chlamydia, you will probably get it,” Saxbe relates. “Explain, it’s treatable but it’s hard to deal with. It could really change your life.”

This is not a scare tactic when delivered in a calm, factual manner with an opportunity for your teen to ask questions and express concerns.

A note to parents who are hesitant to talk about STDs. Saxbe asks: “Would you rather have their attention to talk about it before or after there is a scare?”

How it’s spread How it’s prevented How it’s treated
Chlamydia Vaginal, anal or oral sex Abstinence; latex condom Antibiotics
Gonorrhea Vaginal, anal or oral sex Abstinence; latex condom Antibiotics
Herpes Oral herpes is spread through oral sex; genital herpes is spready by oral, vaginal or anal sex Abstinence; latex condom There is no cure but medication reduces symptoms.
HIV Vaginal, anal or oral sex Abstinence; latex condom There is no cure but medications to treat symptoms.
HPV Vaginal, anal or oral sex Abstinence; latex condom; vaccination There is no cure but medications to treat symptoms.
Trichomoniasis Vaginal, anal or oral sex Abstinence; latex condom Medication

V. STD Prevention Methods

STDs can be prevented in a few different ways:

  • Abstinence
  • Latex condoms
  • Testing and conversations with partners

The number one way to prevent STDs is to abstain from sex. This is a message often encouraged in school sexual education programs. Parents should talk to teens about waiting to have intercourse until they are in a committed partnership, both partners consent, and they have had mature discussions with each other about sex. However, we know that the majority of teens will not wait to have sex.

According to the CDC, among U.S. high school students surveyed in 2019, 62% have had sexual intercourse and 9% had four or more sexual partners. Of the 27% who had sexual intercourse during the previous three months, 46% did not use a condom and 12% did not use any method to prevent pregnancy.

Condoms are an effective way for sexually active teens to prevent STDs. The CDC says laboratory studies have shown latex condoms are a barrier against even the smallest STD pathogens.

Encourage your teen to talk to their partners, Saxbe says. They should be inquiring about whether someone they want to have sex with has been tested for STDs. “Ask, ‘Have you been tested? How many partners have you had? Have you ever had an STI? Will you get tested with me now?’ Explain, if your teen is not mature enough to have that conversation with a partner, they are probably not mature enough to have sex.”

And also emphasize that just because a partner answers no to the question, “Have you ever had an STD?” does not mean this is the case. Remember, Saxbe tells teens, “You can only protect yourself.”

VI. STD Testing: What Parents Need to Know

Teens who are sexually active should get regular STD testing. It can be quick, is not painful and can be free if you go to an organization like Planned Parenthood. At the doctor’s office, STD tests are not generally offered without you requesting one. So ask. The CDC also offers this STD Testing Locator.

Each STD has its own test and a doctor or healthcare professional will help you figure out which test you need. STD testing can include a urine test or a cheek swab (HIV). STD tests can also be a blood test or using a swab to gently gather cell samples from the penis, vagina, urethra, cervix, anus or throat. A physical STD exam will include looking at genital areas for warts, sores, rashes, irrigation or discharge. If there is a presence of sores, a sample is gathered with a swab.

Teens generally do not necessarily need consent from their parents to get tested for STDs. Regulations vary by state. Though Dr. Snyder points out, even without requiring consent, some teens hesitate to get tested by their family doctors because they use their parents health insurance and they will see the bill. “Consent is one thing, privacy is another,” she points out, noting that Planned Parenthood is a resource for STD testing and education.

At-home STD tests are available at pharmacies and online. For example, LetsGetChecked offers more than 30 STD tests you can order and have shipped to your house. After receiving it, you’ll activate the test, collect your sample and return it the same day using a prepaid shipping label.

“We want parents to talk to their children about getting tested and to make it a point to be a part of it when they see their doctor,” Altidor says. “The test is a sure-fire way to reduce transmission. If we want to focus on prevention and reducing transmission, we really need to get people tested and remove the stigma from that.”

Your teen wouldn’t avoid getting a COVID-19 test if they believe they were exposed or have symptoms. “And, we wear masks to reinforce a barrier,” Altidor relates. “If you were to use a condom, it’s the same general idea. And if you do test positive, you get the services and treatments you need, inform the partners you need to inform, and move on with your life.”

What To Do if Your Teen Tests Positive for an STD

If your teen tests positive for an STD, be supportive and seek immediate treatment. Altidor says, “Let your teen know, ‘If this happens to you, it’s okay. We still love you.’”

The conversation should carry the same tone as talking about sex and healthy relationships, and STD prevention. “STDs are common and there are easy ways to be treated,” Davis says. “Talk about what treatment looks like, and do some role playing about how to talk to their partner about it.”

What teens need to know is, “Whatever happens, I’m going to help you,” Saxbe says.

After receiving positive test results, getting further testing might be a good idea. A healthcare provider will give those recommendations, along with treatment. Your teen will need to inform sexual partners, and they will need STD testing.

Let your teen know, though the outcome of the STD test was not what they hoped, getting tested was the best thing to do because they can get proper medical treatment.

VII. Additional Teen STD Prevention Resources for Parents

Organization What they offer Helpful resource Website
Planned Parenthood STD testing, resources and treatment STD Testing, Treatment & Vaccines plannedparenthood.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Statistics, resources, guidance, STD testing locator GetTested https://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Resources Talking with Your Teen About Preventing STDs https://health.gov/myhealthfinder
American Academy of Pediatrics Pediatrician guidance STI Screening Guidelines https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/adolescent-sexual-health/Pages/default.aspx

VIII. FAQs About Teen STDs

These are good talking points or answers to have for teens with questions about sexual health.

What are sexually transmitted diseases?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are passed from one person to another through sexual activity. STDs can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, along with oral or anal sex, and uncommonly through close physical contact.

How common are STDs?

Every day worldwide, more than 1 million STIs are acquired, according to the World Health Organization. Each year, an estimated 376 people are diagnosed with new infections with 1 of 4 most common STDs: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and trichomoniasis. An estimated 500-plus million people have herpes simplex virus (HSV), and more than 290 million women have a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

How do teens get STDs?

Anyone who is sexually active can get an STD. Any individual can get an STD by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has an STD. Teens should understand they can get an STD without “going all the way” because, as the CDC explains, some STIs like herpes and HPV are spread by skin contact.

How can STDs be prevented?

STDs can be prevented by abstaining from vaginal, anal or oral sex. Proper use of a condom can prevent STDs, as well.

What are the top STDs for teens?

The top STDs for teens are HPV, chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhea and syphilis.

Do all STDs show symptoms?

Not all STDs show symptoms. In fact, you can have an STD for years before a symptom appears, or never experience symptoms and pass the STD to a sexual partner. Planned Parenthood points out that 75% of women and 50% of men with chlamydia have no symptoms. That said, some common STD symptoms include discharge, burning or itching in the genital area.

Where can teens get tested for STDs?

Teens can get tested for STDs at their doctor’s office or at clinics such as Planned Parenthood. At-home testing kits are available. The CDC offers this helpful tool to find an STD testing location.

How are STDs treated?

Bacterial STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis can be treated and cured with antibiotics. However, viral STIs like genital herpes and HPV can be treated to relieve symptoms. HIV is treated with medicine but there is no cure.

What happens if STDs aren’t treated?

If left untreated, STDs can cause major health problems including infertility, mother-to-child transmission, birth defects, neurological issues, cancer or even blindness.

Who can answer questions about STDs?

If you have questions about STDs, you can learn more facts from the CDC and Planned Parenthood, along with organizations like The National Center for Health Research. You can trust your doctor and medical professionals for guidance. Check out our list of expert resources.

These experts contributed information and recommendations for this guide.

Jennifer SnyderMD, family medicine physician, University Hospitals

Sarah SaxbeMS, MSW, LISW-S, project manager for health education at Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Christy Altidor, associate director of adolescent health, National Coalition of STD Directors

Jerrica Davis, senior manager of adolescent health, the National Coalition of STD Directors

X. Learn More From Our Sources

Author: Testing.com

Testing.com provides in-depth guides and comprehensive resources to help individuals and families. It is their mission to make personal health information accessible to everyone and empower all of us to take control of our own health. Testing.com believes you deserve to have the information you need to make well-informed health decisions.

POST A COMMENT