A recently released study finding that at least one in four teenage girls nationwide has a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and the not-so-publicized news that so, too, does one in five adults is, well, not so shocking for those of us who have lived the experience.
According to the study, which was conducted as part of a government health survey in 2003 - 2004 by Sara Forhan of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 3 million teenage girls have at least one STD. Among African American teens, the percentage is even higher: almost half of the young women have an STD.
I know what they are going through. When I was 21 years old, my doctor sat me down, looked at me with sad eyes, and told me that I had contracted a sexually transmitted disease. I couldn't believe it was true, especially since I'd practiced "safe sex," as taught at school, and engaged in sex only while in a committed relationship.
Yet the diagnosis was inescapable. And so began the first of many days during which I wrestled with how quickly sex could go from "free and casual" to "medical and forever." I entered into a very private, dark period of my life that lasted about eight years. Every time someone would compliment my looks or appearance, I felt as if my life had become something akin to a cardboard cutout. I may have looked good on the outside, but I was almost literally dying on the inside. (The type of STD I have is a leading cause of cancer in women.)
As my required check-ups continued, I noticed that the doctor's initial empathy for my condition turned into a cavalier attitude. During one such visit, I poured out my heart to him and asked him a number of questions (for where else could I go when no one else knew my secret?). ...1
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