Let’s Talk About Sex

Mia Bonfiglio, Co Pulse Editor

Julie Loftus, registered school nurse, recently sat in her office talking to a student who hadn’t been feeling well. The student had gotten a tongue piercing and thought it could possibly be infected; however, Loftus ruled this out after giving her an oral inspection.

The following week, sores had popped up all over the inside of the student’s mouth. After a trip to the doctor, the student found out she had contracted herpes.

“A lot of people are inhibited about using condoms and that may be a question of not having the familiarity on how to use them, but that can easily be taught,” Ellen Chadwick said. “I think the more opportunities teens have to talk to each other if they are contemplating sex is really important because if you are a female and you don’t know how to say ‘you are either using a condom or we aren’t doing anything,’ you find yourself having sex without condoms, and the same can go for young men.”

The student was unaware that genital herpes in newer forms can be contracted from oral sex, Loftus said. This misconception is common among many teenagers and as a result, contraceptives are often not  used to prevent the transmitting of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Additionally, when someone gets a herpes infection for the first time, the whole body feels sick. Not only do sores appear, but the body becomes weak, even ill.

An October 2019 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), divulged that in 2019, cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia are on the rise for the fifth consecutive year. There has been a 19% increase in chlamydia, a 63% rise in gonorrhea, a 71% growth in primary and secondary syphilis, and congenital syphilis has risen 185% since 2014.

“I think that students who are engaging in sexual activity do not apply the knowledge that they do have from both health class sophomore year and online,” Loftus said. “The information is out there, but the students think that [contracting an STI] will not happen to them.”

STIs may do damage before they are treated, Chadwick said. Even after clearing them up, they may have already caused permanent damage to the body. Many STIs are treatable, but complications may occur even before treatment. In addition, adolescents’ genital environments are less mature and much more susceptible to STIs since the cells are less protective against infections. Teens are also more likely to have multiple partners without using protection, further increasing the risk of STI contraction.

Many steps are being taken to prevent potentially deadly STIs, such as HIV, Chadwick said. PREP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) was developed within the past five to seven years and is a medication used  to prevent the spread of HIV to anyone potentially at risk for its contraction.

“It is really important to be very educated on STIs, the risks, the complications and how to protect yourself,” Chadwick said. “One of the most important things to know about is how to avoid getting an STI and be comfortable using condoms.”