My homegirl from Philly sent me this article, “A City on Fire,” about the rise of STDs among teens and young adults in Philadelphia. SMH at the title’s wordplay. But the article notes that among young people ages 15-24, STD infections, especially chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea, are increasing and in some cases doubling.
Though they cannot cite a direct cause, the city’s Public Health department notes that people who live in closer proximity to one another (i.e. urban areas) tend to have higher rates of disease. Hence why Philadelphia, the 6th most populous city in the United States, has higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases.
But there is another more curious factor that may explain the higher rates. Starting in 2003, Philadelphia is the first city in the country to offer STD testing in high schools. Therefore, more teens were/are getting tested accounting for higher overall rates. However, the health department can’t specifically quantify this, but they know they are making an impact by helping young people know their status and then get treatment.
With stats like these, free STD testing offered in high school is the way to go. No matter how much folks want to lie to themselves, young people are having sex. Why not make sure they are all being safe and informed? It takes some of the stigma away from getting tested by having it be a common part of health and self-care. Take it a step further and teach young people the importance of having candid conversations with their partners about sexual health and/or getting tested together. It may feel corny but it’s safe.
Otherwise, our young people are relying the “Nostradamus” method:
A 17-year-old who gave his name as Nostradamus said that he gets tested for STDs regularly, but he doesn’t directly ask his sexual partners if they do the same.
“I play around,” he said. “You know, like ‘You better be clean.’ I give hints.”
Then, he said, “I just strap up and pray.”