Friday, March 09, 2007
Including STDs in "The Talk"
It was a hot and sticky spring day in southern Ohio. A group of fifth-grade girls waited anxiously for "the movie." I was one of them. We giggled nervously as a female teacher led us into the gymnasium. Our moms were waiting. We sat down next to them in cold, metal chairs. The lights were turned off. The projector began to whirl. Birds and bees and ovaries and fallopian tubes filled the screen. We were on a journey toward womanhood, while the boys played kickball in the parking lot outside.
Like many Gen Xers, "the movie" was my first foray into the adult world of sex. When I was a kid, my parents and teachers did a good job of explaining "how babies are made," but I don't recall a substantial conversation about sexually transmitted diseases, beyond AIDS.
After the reaction medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and I received to our story about dating with a STD, we decided to take a look at an issue facing many parents: How do you talk to your kids about STDs?
If you don't think this will affect you and your family, consider this: One in four women will get herpes (one in five men will contract it), and at some point in their life - half of sexually active men and women will get the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer or genital warts.
So where do you start? I decided to talk with pediatrician Larissa Hirsch. She's a fellow in children's health media with KidsHealth.org. "Kids are having sex at younger and younger ages," Hirsch says. She says the conversation about sex and STDs should go hand in hand.
The doctor and her colleagues at KidsHealth.org have all kinds of great advice. Here are some of their top suggestions:
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