SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS (STIS) AMONG ADOLESCENTS
Adolescents walking into a hospital to complain about a possible STI shows that they are medically aware of their body and know when something is off.
Let’s look at the below conversation that ensued between an Adolescent and Doctor after which we can now discuss.
“Good afternoon ma.”
“Hi, good afternoon. What’s your complaint?”
“I was here last week, and I was asked to do some tests”
Doctor looks at the tests requested by another colleague: Viral markers (HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C), VDRL (for syphilis); results are negative. Doctor observes written in the history, “Complains of itching in the pubic area…Recent history of unprotected sex”.
“How’s the itching? Has it resolved? Have you noticed any discharge?”
“The itching is still there but there is no discharge.”
“OK. Well, the results are negative, so you don’t have HIV, Hepatitis B, C, or syphilis. Who did you have sex with and why didn’t you use protection?”
“She is my friend. It was after the sex that I noticed the itching, so I came to do the tests just to be sure.”
“OK, but you’ll have to come back again in about three months to be sure. So, I understand that your sexual Hormones are high during this stage in your life, but the amount of money you’ve spent on these tests is considerably more than if you had just bought a condom. You do know that there are many other STI’s that don’t have a cure? Like Herpes and Humanpapiloma virus (HPV). Did you even think about the fact that she could get pregnant?”
*Chuckles nervously……But I didn’t ‘release’ inside her.”
Hearing this and seeing how unaware the patient was about the consequences of his actions, the doctor proceeds to counsel the patient on sex education, diseases that can be gotten via sexual routes and use of contraceptive. Emphasising that withdrawal method is not an efficient method, while using the ABCD as a template.
A - Abstinence (100% safe and secured).
B - Be faithful to one partner.
C - Condoms and other Contraceptives.
D - Drug compliance in cases of STIs.
Infections caused by microorganisms that are typically transmitted sexually are known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) (Ayanlowo). Note that, this is not only limited to vaginal penetration sex; STIs can also be acquired through anal sex, oral sex, and the sharing of sex toys or instruments. More than one million STIs are acquired every day around the world, with most of these conditions being asymptomatic, and adolescents are more susceptible to these infections than any other age group.
Recent studies found out the following about STIs.
- Annually, adolescents make up nearly half of new STIs in the United States (Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), 2021) (Shannon & Klausner, 2019).
- In 2018, about 26 million people contracted STIs, and almost half of that number were aged between 15 and 24 (Adolescents and STDs Fact Sheet, n.d.).
- Sexual and reproductive ill-health ranks among the top five causes of mortality amongst adolescents (Dehne & Riedner, 2005).
- About one out of every four sexually active female adolescent has an STI (Shannon & Klausner, 2019).
With factors such as limited access to sex education, sexual and reproductive health, and rights, the numbers are worse off in developing countries. Furthermore, due to the high predisposition of adolescents to high-risk behaviours, partly because the decision-making part of their brains is still under development, and because of their restricted access to healthcare services, especially those suited to their needs, they are more vulnerable to STIs and less likely to get adequate and proper healthcare (Shannon & Klausner, 2019).
STIs are usually asymptomatic but some are symptomatic, with long term complications such as infertility, chronic pelvic diseases and even cancers, if they are undetected, untreated, or poorly treated. However, in association with other factors including non-existence of adolescent-specific or friendly clinics, high cost of healthcare, stigma associated with sexual and reproductive health amongst others, leads to poor healthcare seeking behaviour amongst the adolescent age-group. So therefore, It is paramount that healthcare policies be reviewed to encourage good health-seeking behaviours amongst teenagers. Healthcare workers and Facilities that are adolescent-specific and friendly should be encouraged and made readily available, especially facilities that cater to the at-risk population for better health outcomes. In conclusion, if you think that you have been exposed to a possible STI, go to the nearest hospital/ Health centre to lay your complaints and you will receive appropriate treatment. Also, practice abstinence and if you must have sex, make sure you do so with protection. If you are old enough to have sex, then you are old enough to be responsible about it or shoulder its consequences.