Do We Really Care about the STD Epidemic Among Youth?

Image credit: Urine Drug Test HQ

For the fourth year in a row infection rates for gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia have all risen. According to the CDC, gonorrhea rates have increased by 67 percent, and syphilis by 76 percent! Chlamydia remains the most common STD, with infections at more than 1.7 million cases, rising from 1.6 the year before. These rates, coupled with the CDC’s mounting concern that gonorrhea could soon become resistant to all current antibiotics, has prompted David Harvey, Executive Director of the National Coalition of STD Directors to say, “The United States continues to have the highest STD rate in the industrialized world.  We are in the midst of an absolute STD public health crisis in this country. It’s a crisis that has been in the making for years.”


Nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were diagnosed in the United States in 2017 alone 1. What makes that even more concerning is that sexually active youth are at great risk. “CDC estimates that youth ages 15-24 make up just over one quarter of the sexually active population, but account for half of the 20 million new sexually transmitted infections that occur in the United States each year.” 2


What is the solution?

How can we turn the tide and staunch this growing epidemic? As a nation we have invested nearly a billion dollars on programming aimed at increasing contraceptive use among teens since 2008. However, STD rates have continued to rise. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) conducted by the CDC shows that condom use is decreasing among teens and the dual use method, that is using a condom along with a hormonal birth control method, has remained at a measly 8.8% since 2013 3. Although contraceptive use helps, it is not the answer to this epidemic. Youth have the right to be fully informed of STDs transmission modes and rates and be given the empowering choice of avoiding teen sex.


Instead of focusing solely on preventing teen pregnancy and STDs, SRA education broadens the conversation to a holistic approach focused on optimal health. The whole person is considered when addressing sex with adolescents because sex is about more than just sex. SRA educators help guide adolescents in considering how sex will impact their lives both now and in the future.


Consider the Whole Person:

Whole person well-being should be considered when addressing sex with teens. SRA champions youth to achieve optimal health by avoiding non-marital sexual activity to protect against STDs, pregnancy, and other potentially negative consequences of sex as well as to offer the best opportunity for future thriving.


In addition to information on avoiding unplanned pregnancy and STDs, SRA education helps equip adolescents with foundational knowledge and skills to make healthy relationship choices. Sex is discussed in the context of the rest of their lives and is a broader conversation than simply avoiding pregnancy and STDs.


The Solution:

Youth deserve to be equipped to succeed and thrive in life by constructing healthy and strong relational foundations. Sex is a risk behavior for youth, as demonstrated by the epidemic rates of STDs, and needs to be addressed as such. SRA teaches youth about the healthiest context for sex as a part of a larger whole person discussion for future thriving.



1 CDC. (2018) Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) accessed on November 12, 2018 at:

2 Ibid

3 CDC. (2018) Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.