By Maven McGann
One of the scariest things that can happen to a sexually active individual is contracting a sexually transmitted disease. This genesis of this fear is that it’s almost impossible to get rid of certain STDs. Some can linger and later cause infertility in women.
Students are taught from a young age to have protected sex to avoid STDs and teen pregnancy. In school, girls are also taught to use sexual protection. But socially, girls are pressured to do things they don’t feel comfortable doing by boyfriends, girlfriends and other peers.
The problem is that this pressure contributes to rising STD rates, and STDs can lead to infertility. One in four teenage girls have STDs, according to the Office of Women’s Health.
STDs are increasing not declining, even though the United States has the technology and resources to prevent it. “People don’t get tested as much as they should, because STDs are stigmatized especially on a college campus,” says Alexandra Banks, a rising senior at Howard University.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Syphilis cases nearly doubled, gonorrhea cases increased by 67 percent, chlamydia remained at record highs and in the District of Columbia, an estimated 2.86 million infections occur annually.”
“Women under the age of 25 are almost always screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea,” said Mark S. Johnson, M.D., chair of the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Howard University.
When girls contract chlamydia or gonorrhea, they can negatively affect fertility by scarring the fallopian tubes and making it hard in the future for eggs to travel in the reproductive system, Dr. Johnson explained. However, if a woman has an STD, does not know about it and gets pregnant, she could pass the STD to the baby.
Some young girls are likely to contract an STD, because of social inequalities and gender norms. The gender norms tell girls that they have to do what guys want, even if they don’t want to use condoms. Girls in relationships are pushed to have unprotected sex, because it is better for the boys. In addition, other girls push the idea that their friends should just go along with what the guys want, and they will be fine.
STDs, also known as sexually transmitted infections or STIs, are also an issue among girls and young women internationally.
“Even when you inform men that they should use condom, that you are infected with STIs, they will still insist on unprotected sex,” a 25-year-old Nigerian woman said in a study published in Infectious Disease Reports.
Rape victims often contract STDs. In a study of 204 girls, 43 percent who were examined 72 hours after being raped tested positive for an STD, according to the National Center for Biotechnological Information at the National Institutes of Health. This means statistically girls who are raped have almost a 50 percent chance of contracting an STD, which reinforces the need to be tested after a sexual assault.
Reproductive health experts say that it is important that girls protect themselves by using condoms. Condoms are not only an effective birth prevention, but they are also a good prevention for STDs.
Maven McGann is a sophomore at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School.