CHECKING THE SPREAD OF SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES (STDs) AND TEENAGE PREGNANCY
BY SITO ANDREW ESSIEN
Hilcrest High College, Calabar
Young people are the hope of the future. In recent times, many young people have become vulnerable to health challenges that threaten their development and ultimately the health of the Nigerian future. Such challenges result from Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and teenage pregnancies. When unplanned sexual contact is achieved between two people of opposite sex, the result is often sexual infection or unwanted pregnancies. Unfortunately, many young people are not familiar with the consequences of early sexual relations such as STDs, their transmission paths, symptoms, diagnosis, pregnancies and consequences. This has led to the spread of these diseases as well as increase in the occurrences of STDs and teenage pregnancies. This essay outlines the basic facts that every young person should be familiar with as regarding STDs and teenage pregnancies to safeguard his/ her future for a better tomorrow.
What is STDs and teenage pregnancy?
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are bacterial and viral infectious diseases that can be transmitted from person to person by direct and indirect sexual contacts and practices (Encyclopedia Britannica 1993; Sherfield & Moody 2011). In the same manner, teenage pregnancy results when a teenager from the age of 13 to 19 becomes pregnant. Lack of information and exposure to unsafe sanitary or sexual relations makes people prone to STDs and teenage pregnancies. These contacts and practices range from sexual intercourse, mother to child before or at birth, breastfeeding, kissing, sex during ovulation with attendant fertilization, infected blood transfusion, the use of unsterilized medical equipment or even using the same sanitary facilities with infected persons. Types of STDs that affect people include Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Herpes, Hepatitis, Genital Warts, Chlamydia, AIDS/HIV and so on( Decisions for Health: Texas Edition (2005) and Sherfield & Moody (2011). These diseases vary in the range of transmission intensity and symptoms to growths around anus, vaginal itching, burning sensations, blisters, sores, painful urination, fever, abdominal pains, loss of appetite, vomiting, skin rashes and other complications that can lead to death. It is important to note that STDs and teenage pregnancies can cause a lot of social, emotional and physical issues at the individual, family and societal levels.
Effects of STDs and teenage pregnancies:
People infected with STDs face a number of health and social consequences. Health- wise, STDs are known to result in medical conditions that cannot be cured, can lead to cancer, destruction of body organs such as the liver, the womb, urinary tracts and even premature deaths. The social consequences of STDs include and gradually spreading the disease to others at large. It can also lead to stigmatization from friends and family, abuses, loss of self-respect and integrity. In developed and developing countries teenage pregnancy continues to receive increased attention because of the early age at which adolescents involve themselves in sexual activities. The result of teenage pregnancies include associated risks such as unplanned early motherhood, STDs, family stigmatization, lack of support, improper care, and complications that lead to the Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF) or even death. All of these have serious physical, psychological and financial implications on the individual, family and nation at large.
The social cost of teenage pregnancies include problems in the society like child trafficking, homelessness and alienation from friends and family, depression, loss of self-esteem and value. In many instances, young mothers have been so traumatized that attempts have been made to kill or thrown away the child either in the dustbin or on the roadside. Also, many children born prematurely have become subjected to psychological abuses and torture from the teenage mother.
Checking the Spread of STDs and Teenage Pregnancies: The Way Forward
Increase in the spread of STDs and occurrence of teenage pregnancies can be controlled when young people are given the right and adequate information on reproductive health. Information remains the most powerful tool to use. This is because an informed mind stands liberated especially as it also empowers one with the option to make informed decisions. The following recommendations are also put forward:
- The most effective means of reducing STDs and teenage pregnancy is TOTAL abstinence. Young people should be made to understand that wellness is a gift that must be nurtured through self- dignity, respect and value.
- Sex education which helps to highlight the true facts of the social, economic and physical consequences of STDs and teenage pregnancies should be promoted in schools and churches.
- Parents should be encouraged to regularly talk with and relate to the need of their young people as role models without any form of neglect. Chances are that parents are most likely to give honest opinion to their children so teenagers should follow their parent’s advice.
- Governments at various levels should set and establish realistic programmes and agencies that sensitize and help traumatized people pass through the different phases of life
- School counselors should be made available at all times to freely talk with and help the young persons understand the complex processes of self-growth.
It is said that ‘health is wealth’. A healthy nation is one that continuously informs, educates and instills good health options for its citizens to ensure the future. However, for the future to be stable, now is the time to promote healthy values that sustain the lives of young persons to be free of STDs and unwanted teenage pregnancies. Therefore, if the teenagers learn to respond to good counsel and adopt a good lifestyle, I am convinced that STDs and teenage pregnancy can be reduced in our society when young people take responsibilities in evaluating their decisions, ask questions and get answers, know the consequences and options for responsible decisions and actions.
- Sherfield, R. M & Moody,P.G. (2011) Cornerstone: Creating success through positive change. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
- The New Encyclopedia Britannica: Volume 10. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.
- Decisions for Health: Texas Edition (2005). Austin: Holt, Rinehart and Winston