"Thanks to a recent federal study, it is almost common knowledge that at least one in four American teenage girls has one or more sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
"As a teen, I have some ideas about how these statistics came to be. But rather than write solely about what I think, I decided to send out an unscientific survey to over 200 Wilmington students between the ages of 14 and 19, and asked them to tell their friends, in order to get a larger picture of the issue.
"Proponents of abstinence-only education and comprehensive sex education have been at odds for a very long time. Only a few teens responded that they plan to wait until after marriage to have sex, even though many have had abstinence education.
"Many teens consider their parents reliable sources for information about STDs. But teens who said that they feel uncomfortable talking about sensitive topics with their parents have had to get their facts elsewhere. Friends, the Internet, books, doctors' offices, movies, and slumber parties were listed as places where teens picked up information about sex over the years. Most teenagers said that schools and parents did not fill in all of the information gaps.
"Nearly all students mentioned that the media has some effect on teen sex, especially movies and television shows which do not usually associate sex with consequences.
"Unfortunately, those consequences exist. One female responder revealed that, despite practicing safe sex, she already has HPV, the most common STD among teen girls. HPV, or human papillomavirus, is an STD that is often undetectable in men and can cause cervical cancer in women. She asked me to share her story so that more girls will realize that they are not invincible and will get tested regularly for HPV so they can get proper medical care if they have the virus. She recommended that teen girls talk to their parents and doctors about Gardasil, the HPV vaccine.
"People of all ages can find information about STD prevention at www.cdc.gov and www.webmd.com."