When it comes to reducing the rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), a great deal of focus has been placed on how to get the message across to teens that sex can come with potentially serious consequences. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young people between the ages of 15 and 26 are at the highest risk of contracting one of these infections, which suggests that current programs aimed at teaching this population about STDs may be insufficient. Recently, Tennessee news source the Tennessean reported on a local organization that believes that the best way to explain the danger of STDs to teens is to have their peers explain it to them. Called the PG-13 Players, they are a group of young people who write plays about sexual health and perform them at churches, schools and community theaters to educate other people their age.
The organization is affiliated with Planned Parenthood, and the topics of the plays range from STDs to drugs and homophobia. This type of program is particularly needed in Tennessee, where the teen pregnancy rate is among the highest in the nation, and more than a third of all chlamydia cases are found in people between the ages of 15 and 19. Furthermore, HIV infections among 15 to 24-year-olds in one county have more than doubled in the past 5 years.
Brad Beasley, director of the STD program for Tennesee’s Metro Public Health Department told the news source that he believes these high infection rates among teens could be due to the fact that young people believe they are invincible. “They’re sexually active – more so than anyone is willing to admit,” said Beasley, quoted by the news provider. “I think a lot of kids just don’t recognize the ramifications of having sex. They think that STDs or pregnancy will happen to someone else.” Hopefully, programs such as the PG-13 Players will encourage teens to take the threat of STDs seriously. This could result in lower infections rates among this population.