Sexual health is an area of incredible concern in modern society and a popular subject for research paper assignments. The rate of STIs among America’s youth is growing, and the increasing rate of these infections is a problem of the utmost importance. This sample research paper from Ultius will explore the issue sexually transmitted diseases among teenagers in the United States.
Sexual Health in American Teens
Aside from teenage pregnancy, one of the growing health concerns for the United State’s youth is the rising rate of teens that are becoming infected with a sexual transmitted infection (STI). STI rates are alarming high for the current adolescent population and this afflicted group also happens to be the least informed about the extreme risks that STIs carry. Today’s youth is bombarded with constant pressure to become sexually active at a much younger age then any previous generation and, subsequently, come to believe many falsehoods about what can happen when they practice unsafe and unhealthy sexual behaviors.
This problem is compounded by a public system that tends to practice ineffective means of informing and teaching our youth about proper sexual practices in terms of both safety and making informed, intellectual decisions. America’s teen sexual health stance must be shifted to accommodate the modern pressures, myths, and realities of the pressures and dangers that the new generation is facing in terms of becoming sexually active and living a healthy and conscientious sexual lifestyle in order to protect the youth from continuing to see such a high rate of STI contraction and transmission.
STI Health Issues
From a statistical point of view, STIs are one of the most dangerous and prevalent health issues that face our youth currently. According to the Huffington Post, as many as 1 in 4 teens that are sexually active have a form of an STI (Tanner). What is even more problematic is that of those that were surveyed, only half of the females that were surveyed acknowledged that they were actually engaging in sexual intercourse. This reveals a fundamental problem that our society has in labeling what falls under the category of sexual actions. Because our society has taken a stance of promoting abstinence and denial of explaining to our children what constitutes sexual activity, the youth tends to have varying descriptions of what sexual activities include.
Many of our youth only consider vaginal intercourse as sexual intercourse and will not qualify oral sex or other activities under the definition, whereas others will consider oral sex and other such sexual activities as being a part of sexual intercourse. With these varying levels of what constitutes intercourse, our youth is actually showing that they are confused about the very nature of what is considered being sexually active; a problem such as this falls at the feet of the adult population. This misconception of what is considered to be sexual intercourse is one of the key reasons that the youth of America is the largest group to be effected by STIs yearly.
According to the Center for Disease Control,“nearly half of the 19 million new STDs each year are among young people aged 15-24 years” (CDC).
The reality of the situation is that more and more young people are having sexual intercourse and as a result are becoming exposed to STIs. Data shows that
- 47.4% of high school students have admitted to being sexually active
- 40% do not use condoms as a means of sexual protection
- 77% do not use birth control pills for pregnancy protection (CDC).
With such a large proportion of the sexually active community for this group not using a means of sexual protection, it comes as no real shock as to why this particular group is seeing such a high rate of STI contraction and transmission.
Coupling this fact with the issue of not being exposed to adequate information about the dangers of STIs and the youth of America will only continue to see a rise in both unplanned pregnancies and STI contraction rate. One of the key factors that makes this group so susceptible to STIs are that the youth of America tends to be the most untested group in terms of knowing whether they have an STI or not. This comes from the negative stigma that adults have placed on having sexual intercourse as a youth.
Facing the Truth
The adult population of the United States must recognize the truth of the issue when it comes to young people and sexual activity. Instead of being uncomfortable about the issue, the parents and authority figures in young people’s lives must be active and accurate in communicating to the youth the importance of practicing safe sexual choices. The old methodology of “just saying no” clearly is no longer an effective campaign; instead the adults of the nation must inform the youth about the choices that they face when they become sexually active.
Most importantly, adults must communicate to the youth the importance of being informed about their own sexual health. This means that the youth of America must be informed about the ease and importance of being tested for STIs and the importance of using condoms as a means of preventing STIs.
“Most youth assume they are being tested for ‘all’ STIs when they go to their doctor, when in fact testing rarely occurs even for the more common infections, even though health care guidelines and medical associations recommend testing be done routinely,” (ASHA).
This shows a fundamental problem with the communication between the youth and adults of America in terms of sexual health. Both parties are feeling strained about communication on this important issue, and as a result, many misconceptions that lead to health issues have become prevalent.
In addition to the statistical evidence about the rise and spread of STIs in the United States’ youth, there are many social factors that play a large role in sexual activity of young people. Today’s youth is feeling more and more pressured about becoming sexually active and are feeling alienated for not becoming sexually active at a young age. One of the most common misconceptions facing young people is that
“by the age of 15, about 75% of boys and girls have had sex,” (CFOC).
With such misconceptions such as this in place, teens feel as though they are not normal for not engaging in sexual behaviors and, therefore, rush into becoming sexually active in order to fit into a social group. This issue of social pressure only grows when one looks at the constant world of advertisements and expected culture norms that young people are exposed to on a daily basis. Many of the ads that target adults use sexual activity (mostly through implication) as a means of selling a product or displaying the way that a “cool” individual handles a situation.
When young people see these sorts of ads, they naturally will associate being an adult with these sorts of actions. Girls will see the sleek, sexy models that are depicted in the media and grow to believe that they must use sex appeal as a means of getting what they want from others, and boys will see that the prototypical “cool guy” is one that is a ladies man who is obviously sexually active and most likely desired by women for his sexual prowess among other factors. These sorts of over the top depictions of genders is extremely detrimental to the young people of the nation because they are blatantly false and promote a terrible image of what actual adults are like in the real world. Unfortunately, with so many of America’s youth having such poor access to information from real adults on sexual activity and health, young people will continue to find other means of identifying what they feel to be the way to approach sexual activity and lifestyle choices.
Overhaul of Medical Policy
What the nation clearly needs is an overhaul of its public policy on teaching about sexual health and making informed choices on sexual activity among young people. The nation must abandon the old mentality of telling young people to simply not engage in sexual activity, as that clearly is not working. Instead, a new system must be put into place that realizes that more and more young people are becoming sexually active.
This system should be one that aims to inform and teach the values of practicing a safe lifestyle in terms of sexual activity. Instead of chastising and scaring young people, adults must aim to inform them that dangers exist but can be avoided by practicing safe sex. As noted by Yarber and Parrillo,
“a comprehensive approach including quality, theory-based education, accessible and effective health clinics, and improved social and economic conditions has the most promise of controlling STDs in adolescents,” (Yarber & Parrillo).
If nothing else, adults must inform and make available the use of sexual protection to the young people of the nation. Though some will argue that making protection available to our youth is a means of promoting sexual activity, the fact of the matter is that young people are engaging in such acts already. Young people should at least be informed that the use of sexual protection, especially condoms that are inexpensive and readily available to the population, lead to a dramatic decrease in the spread of STIs and pregnancies when used correctly and effectively.
The adolescents of the United States already face a stressful and difficult journey to becoming adults in modern society. One of the most pressing public health issues for this group is the rise and spread of STIs. Adults of America must be active in recognizing and confronting this issue for the young people. The system that is in place currently is clearly ineffective and needs to be overhauled. The nation must put aside its own fighting about whether or not adolescents should be sexually active and realize that more and more of them are being sexually active whether adults like it or not.
Hopefully this sample essay from Ultius will show that the society that we now live in places considerable amounts of pressure on adolescents to become sexually active and adults must foster an environment where safe, smart sexual choices are made by an informed group of young people. By implementing fundamental changes to the way that sexual education is taught to young people and by taking an active role in making sure that they understand the risks and dangers that are faced when having unprotected sex, the United States will be able to create an environment where our youth is not so uninformed and, as a result, the largest group of people to contract STIs on a yearly basis. As with almost all problems of this scale, the first step to making the necessary changes comes from admitting that this issue is indeed a problem and must be addressed regardless of the awkwardness felt by all those involved.
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ASHA. “Talking to Your Teens About STI Prevention.” American Sexual Health Association. 2013: n. page. Web. 1 Mar. 2013.
CDC. “Sexual Risk Behavior: HIV, STD, & Teen Pregnancy Prevention.” Center for Disease Control. 2012: n. page. Web. 1 Mar. 2013.
CFOC. “Myth and Facts.” Campaign for Our Children. 2008: n. page. Web. 1 Mar. 2013.
Tanner , Lindsey. “Study Finds 1 in 4 US Teens Has a STD .” Huffington Post. 12 Mar 2008: n. page. Web. 1 Mar. 2013.
Yarber, WL, and AV Parrillo. “Adolescents and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.” Dept. of Applied Health Science, Indiana University. (1992): n. page. Web. 1 Mar. 2013.
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