By Lauren Ranalli, MPH | March 22, 2021
Director of Marketing and Communications, ETR
Educators play a critical role in providing young people with accurate, inclusive information on sexually transmitted infections, or sexually transmitted diseases (STIs/STDs).
In addition to educating teens and adolescents on the signs and symptoms of STIs/STDs, here are 5 points to make sure you cover in your health lessons:
Anyone who is sexually active could be at risk of getting an STI/STD, regardless of their age, gender, or sexual orientation. When it comes to prevention education, make sure to use inclusive language, examples, and lesson plans in your curricula.
Given what we know about adolescent brain development, young people may not readily associate their current behavior with future consequences. But understanding the long-term consequences of untreated STIs/STDs is a critical component of sexual health education. In your lesson plans, you can address how untreated STI/STD can cause serious health problems such as infertility and organ damage. You should also be sure to emphasize how easy and effective treatment is!
Empower young people to get tested by addressing common myths and misconceptions about testing. Many teens believe that getting tested for STIs/STDs is complicated and expensive—and concerns about confidentiality are often cited as the primary reason for not getting tested. Helping young people identify local, free or inexpensive, confidential services in your community can have a significant impact on reducing testing barriers.
While it’s important for young people to know the long-term effects of forgoing treatment, it’s especially important for them to understand that many STIs/STDs can be easily cured with a round of antibiotics, and all STIs/STDs can be treated. Emphasize the importance of following all treatment directions, even if you start to feel better before taking the full prescription! And, remind young people that getting treatment will help them feel better, stay healthier, and reduce the risk of spreading the infection to their partners.
Incorporating healthy communication skills into your sexual health lessons is vital to helping young people navigate conversations with their partners and health care providers. Look for a curriculum that includes discussion prompts and opportunities for young people to practice having these conversations.
Check out our newly updated resources on STI Facts and STD Facts, a great introduction on how to take care of your sexual health. These best-selling pamphlets include an easily accessible overview of 8 common STIs/STDs—folding out to a handy, comprehensive chart that makes the information easy to understand.
Looking for a full curriculum for your school? The HealthSmart health and wellness curriculum addresses the essential concepts and skills students need to know and practice to adopt healthy behaviors. The lessons and activities are tailored to the developmental capabilities of students at each grade level and are offered in print and digital formats to adapt to the needs of your classroom.
Do you need assistance in selecting the right resources for your school, clinic, or community-based program? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help!
Lauren Ranalli, MPH (she/her/hers) is a public health professional and the Director of Marketing and Communications at ETR. She can be reached at email@example.com.