I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, and I also know that the following story is a few days old. However, because this blog also covers issues effecting women and girls, i couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak on it.

So late last week we found out that apparently 1 in 4 teenage girls has an STI. Like most stories of its kind, these statistics hit home for me, mostly because I have a 16-year-old sister.

But there are a few issues I wanted to address about this study.

Firstly, because HIV and Syphillis were not included in the study, then how is this study complete? In addition, only 838 girls participated in the study, which is a pretty small sample when you think about it. My concern was that the results were skewed and that the media hype is instilling another strain of fear in our communities.

Secondly, this is not to say that these statistics are untrue or that they shouldn’t raise concerns about girls’ reproductive health. But I wonder what we are to make of these stats if they aren’t the most in-depth findings. How much of this is meant to strike paranoia in our minds, and how much of it is to be used to create solutions?

And speaking of solutions, perhaps a combination of things need to happen in order to keep our girls (and our boys) safe from STI’s:

1.-More accurate sex education and resources other than the HPV Vaccine. I’m very glad that we have an HPV Vaccine but with the high cost of health insurance and the lack of access to quality care it’s not real option for many women and girls. Perhaps we need better sex education in schools–one that will stress the importance of reproductive health AND maturity. Some people have asked if I think abstinence should still be a part of this discussion, and I say unequivocally YES–teenagers need to know that it’s okay, it’s natural, and it can even been cool to hold off on sex. I’m not just saying this because I was born and raised in the church. I’m saying this because I honestly believe it’s true. Abstinence only education, of course, is completely different because it assumes that teenagers will never have sex before they are married under any circumstances…and I just can’t agree to something like that.

2.More discussions with our girls at home–beyond the “don’t get pregnant” speech. One would be surprised to find out how many parents don’t talk to their kids about sex. This discussion needs to be had, and often. My parents were great about the sex talk because while they taught me about abstinence and to wait til I was married, they made sure I was educated about STI’s and even about some forms of birth control.

And I thank them for that.

3.-A dialogue about sexual maturity. It’s true–our girls are growing up fast, even faster than those in our quarter-life did. We have to constantly encourage girls to enjoy their girlhood and their adolescence, so know that it’s okay to NOT wear midriffs or a whole face of makeup. Nothing wrong with just wearing lip gloss til your’e 16. The question becomes, how do we open this dialogue when the media is constantly telling girls and women to show some skin in order to be attractive? Of course that opens up another can of worms.

I could go on, but it’s clear to me that teenage girls won’t be as safe from STI’s as they can be until our society changes and until adults realize how much social responsibility they have to make sure that girls are protecting themselves, and until our government understands the importance of affordable and accessible quality healthcare.

For those of us who also have younger sisters like me: Spend time with your sister. I don’t meant to scare her about men on the DL or tell her to never get pregnant or to wait til she’s married. I’m talking about real, honest talk. Of course, your 12 year old sister may not be ready to open up about such a personal talk, but perhaps all we need to do is call her and let her know that when she’s ready to talk we’ll be there to listen.

We need to be devoted to accountability for the sexual health and maturity of our girls. Let’s start today.