Every spring, Science Leadership Academy students receive a lecture on Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s). I’ve been going to these sessions since freshman year. I’m a senior now and the presentation hasn’t changed much. The public health advocates have always provided students with a straightforward presentation that covers two common STD’s in Philadelphia youth: Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. The objective has always been to educate us on the issue and how to prevent ourselves from contracting the diseases. We are encouraged to get tested yearly.
We walk out of class and march to the cafeteria. We know it’s time for the STD screening. We arrive and sit with our friends. Most kids, from what we’ve seen at least try to stay engaged and respect that we’re on their time. We hear the same story year after year from the screening. For example, they use the “you never know who you’ve had sex with” idea. This states that having sex with just one individual doesn’t strictly mean one individual, as they or you has been sexually active with others, which if someone were to have an STD, would cause an outbreak. Each year everything is displayed identically. They’re consistent and informative but lack new creative thinking. At the end of each session, all students head towards the bathrooms so anyone can anonymously get tested.
Students also don’t seem to take the event seriously. We lack attentiveness and few students take advantage of the screening. On top of this, we hear jokes about very serious sexually transmitted diseases or about what else you can put in the test cup. We feel that SLA students haven’t really been doing their part.
SLA Media chimed in on this year’s event. We talked about what goes on at each STD screening session and why they are or aren’t necessary. The majority believed it was important to have a yearly screening. But eventually our conversation turned to, despite our STD screenings, the overall lack of information and access to sexual education and health care we have as students. It was near consensus in the room that our health class in 10th grade alone is insufficient.
We don’t believe SLA students are aware of all their options. We’ve heard of organizations like Planned Parenthood, but have not been provided with the information or direction to take that step if needed. Though, some SLA students have used their own initiative. Staff writer Deja Harrison said despite Planned Parenthood’s controversy in the news, occasionally goes to get access to birth control.
“At first it’s uncomfortable going there on your own. But you see other girls your age and it provides comfort to know they’re here for the same reason.” Harrison commented.
It’s great to see we have students who are aware of their options and take advantage of them. In fact, our journalism class had two students who knew they could get condoms from the nurse’s office. That was something I certainly wasn’t aware of. Our tenth grade health class covers a lot of important information and gives us a chance to learn the basics but teenage students need more than just the front page. We need in-depth knowledge whether we like it or not and we would like this school to provide us with ample opportunities to get this outside of an annual STD screening.
It’s understood why it’s a requirement for everyone to attend the screening and then continue to all enter the bathroom. Anonymity. But for students who wish to use their time differently or choose abstinence, we need another way of making this worth their time. A repetitive and aging video on Gonorrhea and Chlamydia has shown to be ineffective.
Knowing all you can about sexual education is vital to youth. There’s no price you can put on knowledge. Knowing your options and appropriate way to live how you wish, if it’s to be sexually active or abstinent is critical to not become apart of a negative statistic. We all need to make the extra effort to make the right choices.
*Editorials from slamedia.org reflect the overall views and opinion of the SLA writing staff as a whole.