America has the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases of any industrialized nation. Indeed, CDC researchers call it an “ongoing and severe” epidemic. That’s because some 19 million new cases are diagnosed every year—almost half of them among our 15- to 24-year-olds. And then add these facts:
- About 65 million Americans are living with an STD.
- HPV is the most common STD despite a vaccine.
- One in 4 Americans will get an STD in their lifetime.
- It takes only one unsafe sexual contact to get an STD.
No wonder, then, that February boasts not only Valentine’s Day on the 14th but National Condom Day, too. Who knew, right? Actually, the occasion has been on the books since 1978 thanks to members of an AIDS awareness group at the University of California, Berkeley.
Its mission is “to remind people to take responsibility for their own sexual health and to educate them on the risks they put themselves at if they choose not to use them [condoms].” After all, along with STDs, there’s also the risk of unplanned pregnancies which now number about 1.3 million every year.
That’s why the Montgomery County Health Department conducted free and confidential HIV testing and distributed free condoms and literature to students at two of our local colleges last Thursday, with the clear message to use wise judgment and protection, too.
Let that only be a starting place though, for, while another February 14 has slipped by, its dual messages of loving hearts and responsible sexual behaviors have no expiration dates. In other words, be safe, not sorry every day of the year.