Explaining the STD crisis

Risky Sex is one national bestseller that should be in every public and high school library.  It isn’t a steamy romance.  Just read its subtitle: “The Onslaught of Sexually Transmitted Diseases.”  Yet teens and adults are grabbing this book.  The humourous illustrations beak the ice but it is Genuis’ combination of knowledge and compassion that wins the day.

As an obstetrician and gynaecologist, Genuis (pronounced Jenis) sees young women daily who are in physical and emotional pain.  His case studies humanize research statistics.  As one 13-year-old sadly asks when she finds out she has an incurable STD, “Can’t I have a second chance?”

The abc’s of STDs involve not just A for AIDS, B for Hepatitis b and C for Chlamydia.  Today you need to know the difference between HIV, HPV and HSV.  If you don’t, then Risky Sex is for you.

Genuis draws on current American and Canadian statistics.  He supplies enough data for a high school research report.  But kids will want to read the whole book for the human interest.  He was presented with a “Teacher of the Year” award from the University of Alberta in 1991.

Genuis not only describes the problem of STDs clearly, he also debunks the trendy “solution” of condoms.  He exposes their weakness as a defense in the onslaught of disease.

Risky Sex should be required reading for anyone engaging in the condom debate whether it be condom vending machines in the high school or condomania in the classroom.  Genuis does not withhold vital information on contraceptive failure rates.  As a physician he explains the risk factors clearly and then recommends what he considers the best course of action: postponing sexual involvement until a permanent, faithful, monogamous relationship can be established.  He does not consider all choices equally healthy, as much current contraceptive sex education, especially in public schools, advocates.

This is a second edition.  He new cover pictures teens – not thirty-somethings.  It is this adolescent group that is most vulnerable to STDs.  A second edition after only a year reflects Genuis’s commitment to keeping data current.

Genuis asks why we are not measuring the effectiveness of our sex education programs by the pregnancy rate before and after any program is introduced.  If a program is not reducing the pregnancy rate significantly it is not worth the time of day.  Sweden, which has had the most comprehensive (i.e. contraceptive) sex education approach, has seen STD and pregnancy rates sky rocket over the last 30 years.  Meanwhile, in a South Carolina County that introduced a school and community program to postpone initial sexual intercourse among never married teens and pre-teens there was a 60% decline in the pregnancy rate while the rate in non-neighbouring comparison counties increased!

Genuis is a popular speaker to health educators and young people alike.  If you can’t hear him in person, buy the book.  Not surprisingly, he has just published a second title, Reproduction Rollercoaster: Infertility and the Assisted Reproductive Technologies. As he clearly points out in Risky Sex, one needs to think about one’s future family, before engaging in recreational, uncommitted sex.  The STDs contracted today will not hurt so much the teen’s present family (parents and siblings) as his or her future spouse and whether they will be able to have any family at all.

New data from the second edition of Risky Sex:

  • An article in Family Planning Perspectives quotes an annual Practical failure rate of 18.4% in girls under 18 years of age who are using condoms to prevent pregnancy.  According to these figures, over half of the teenage users will be pregnant in three years.
  • In a recent study non-virginal girls were six times more likely to have attempted suicide.  (Orr DP, Beiter M, Ingersoll G, “Premature Sexual Activity as an indicator of psychosocial risk.  Pediatrics, Vol. 87 No. 2, 1991 p. 141-147)
  • A presentation in the New England Journal of Medicine states that in couples where one partner was HIV positive…condoms failed to prevent HIV transmission in 3 of 18 couples, suggesting that the rate of condom failure with HIV may be as high as 17%.  (Goedert, JJ: “What is safe sex?” 1987.

Reviewed by Sue Careless who lists Risky Sex in her new guide, “Resources to Defeat Condom Promotion and Encourage Chastity Education in Canadian Schools.”