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It may feel like an uncomfortable subject, but STDs — or more accurately, sexually transmitted infections — need to be talked about, especially with your teen. Young people, ages 15-24, make up almost half of new infections. These infections shouldn't be stigmatized; STDs are so common that about 1 in 5 U.S. adults currently has one

In our culture, many people feel that getting an STD is dirty or shameful. But we don’t feel this way about other infections like colds or stomach bugs, so why are we so freaked out about sexually transmitted infections? They’re all just infections, so why the stigma? The difference is in how STDs spread: Our culture tells us that sex is shameful, so STDs are shameful, too. Any kind of shame usually leads to secrecy or avoidance. STDs are no different; shame may  prevent your teen from talking about safer sex with a partner and resist getting tested for STDs

The more you talk with your teen about sexually transmitted infections, without judgment,  the more  you  help keep them healthy. Here's how:

  1. Start a conversation with your teen about STDs in a neutral, matter of fact kind of way. You might say something like, “There are things you do to  help stop cold germs from spreading, right? You wash your hands or cover your mouth when you cough. But we still sometimes get colds — and that’s OK.” STIs can work that way too. “There are things you should do to help prevent the spread of STIs — using condoms, getting tested regularly, and talking with your partner about their STI status and history. But even still, STIs are really common; you might get one at some point — and that’s OK.”
  2. Even if they aren't sexually active, help your teen learn how they might talk about STDs with a partner. Our STD Communication Videosare a great place to start. You can watch them together or let your teen watch by themselves. Then afterward, ask what they found helpful about the videos, what still feels scary or hard, and what questions they might still have. 
  3. Encourage your teen to get tested regularly once they become sexually active. Remember that they need to get tested — regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, because anyone who has any kind of sex can get an STD. You can offer to take them to a health center or to their doctor to get tested. It's important to make sure they know that if they ever test positive for an STD, you’ll support them and help them get whatever care they need.

Learn more about how to talk about STDs with your teen.

Tags: STDs, parents, STD Awareness

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