In The News

Student Essay Contest Winner: Grades 9-12

Students in grades 9 to 12 answered the question “What will be the greatest breakthrough in medical technology or medicine in the next ten years, and how will it make people’s lives better?” in an essay of 1,000 words or more.

Following is the winning essay. (All essays have been edited slightly to facilitate readability.)

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Are you scared to have sex? You should be. Having sex in today’s society can kill you. The most important health issue facing teens today is sexually transmitted diseases. Today’s sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, are different than the ones our parents had to deal with. Sure, we still face gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, hepatitis and the other sexually transmitted diseases that our parents faced. But our parents didn’t have to face the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Sexually transmitted diseases are transmitted to others through bodily fluids, commonly while having sex. Despite the efforts of public authorities and public agencies, these diseases are on the rise. These groups try to identify and isolate all sources of infection. One reason for this rise is the use of oral contraceptives. Although oral contraceptives help to prevent pregnancy, they do not prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Other reasons are the emergence of drug-resistant strains, symptomless carriers, a highly mobile population, lack of public education and the reluctance of patients to seek treatment. It is important for my generation to realize that in order to reduce or stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, we must either use condoms or abstain from having sex.

Sexually transmitted diseases in the previous generations were responsible for infertility, premature birth, miscarriages and infection of newborns. Most of these diseases were and are treatable with antibiotics. Gonorrhea, known as the clap, and syphilis, known as pox, were the most dangerous of these venereal diseases. Gonorrhea can cause blindness in newborns. Using a silver nitrate solution in the eyes of every infant born today has solved this problem. Syphilis depends on an open wound to let the organisms that cause this disease into the body. It can be transferred from an infected mother to her fetus. Twenty-five percent of these fetuses result in stillbirth or death of the infant. Forty to 70 percent of these pregnancies result in the baby contracting congenital syphilis, which, if it goes untreated, can result in serious damage to the organs and brain. If syphilis goes untreated, it can result in mental illness, blindness, damage to the heart and death. Syphilis sores have also increased the possibility of contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Today, the most dangerous sexually transmitted diseases we have to deal with are HIV and AIDS. It is hard to find a cause of HIV because there are a variety of strains of this virus. There are some drugs, however, that help to slow down the progression of HIV. There is not a cure for AIDS, and it will eventually result in death. It is the responsibility of the infected individual to notify all sexual partners upon finding out they have one of these diseases.

Teens should also be aware that HIV and AIDS are transmitted through bodily fluids. That means that they can be transferred through the blood. Some other ways to contract these diseases are through blood transfusions, tattoo needles and shared drug needles. This means that hemophiliacs and drug users are at great risk for contracting HIV and AIDS.

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the Untied States today. In women, it can result in tubal pregnancies and infertility. In men, if it goes untreated and it affects the testes, infertility can result. It is easily treated with antibiotics, typically tetracycline.

Another sexually transmitted disease that most teenagers don’t think about is the herpes simplex virus. It is not only transmitted during sex, but it can be contracted through kissing. Cold sores and canker sores are forms of herpes. Cold sores are formed on the lips. Canker sores form in the mouth. This form of the virus is called herpes simplex type 1. There is no cure for this virus. Sometimes it is active and contagious, and sometimes it is not.

There are also diseases or infestations that can be transmitted sexually, but not necessarily sexually. They are lice, scabies and group B streptococcus. Who wants to get a parasite on them? Not me. I would actually be embarrassed to say that I had lice.

Teenagers always think that it can’t happen to them. It can happen to the most careful sexually active teens. Teenagers contract sexually transmitted diseases every day. We have to be aware of the risks we are taking. I think that teens feel a lot of pressure from their peers to have sex. It is important to remember that we are individuals who are in charge of our own lives. We have the right and the responsibility to make our own informed decisions. We are taught in middle school and high school the seriousness of these diseases. It is irresponsible for us not to think of the consequences. The future of our society depends on us.

I hear on the news all the time about middle school students having unprotected oral sex and sexual intercourse with lots of different partners. I wonder if they have given any thought to what they are doing? They couldn’t have. I wish they would realize that they are putting their lives on the line. I just want to shake some sense into them.

Teenagers need to be more concerned with what is going on with their bodies. Being the thinnest or the most beautiful isn’t the most important issue today. These are superficial concerns. How we conduct ourselves is more important. If we have a lot of sexual partners, we are putting others and ourselves at risk. If we do not make this our priority, sexually transmitted diseases will become an epidemic.

I have decided to abstain from having sex. My mother and father have pounded into me the dangers that teenagers have today. I obviously don’t go around telling everyone what I am doing. It is none of their business, and I am not brave enough to face the ridicule. I don’t want to be made fun of. I am, however, trying to do my part to help this serious problem. I don’t want to end up as a statistic.

Michael Marshall
Santa Susana High School
Age 18; Grade 12