As a pediatrician, I have always cared about the sexual health of my teen patients, but one patient in particular woke me up to what is really going on with our teens and sex today.
In the late ‘90s when my daughters were young teens, I saw a 14-year-old patient who had just had part of her cervix removed due to cervical cancer caused by HPV. When I asked her if she knew why she had to undergo this procedure, she said she didn’t. When I asked her about her relationship history, she said she had a boyfriend who was 17 and she believed they would get married one day. She did not know this boyfriend had given her HPV. She was completely in the dark.
This led me to call several excellent OBGYNs I knew. I asked if they were explaining STIs (sexually transmitted infections) to their teen patients. They all said the same thing: no, we don’t have time.
The rise of STIs in teens had completely overwhelmed OBGYNs. If they took the time to explain them to their young patients, they wouldn’t have time for anything else.
This was the turning point for me. Because as I was learning about the rise in STIs among teens, I was also taking my young daughters shopping at the mall where stores were clearly using sex to target young kids by selling sexy clothes and portraying half-nude models in their stores.
We had an epidemic on our hands that was only getting worse.