Baptist Health Lexington: Talking with your kids about STDs
Doctor Jai Gilliam, MD, emphasizes the importance of building strong relationships with your pre-teens early, so they feel comfortable discussing tough topics, such as STDs.
Talking with Your Kids About STDs Health Talks Transcript
Jai Gilliam, MD, Internal Medicine
A sexually transmitted disease, as the name implies, is an infectious illness or disease that is passed through sexual contact. Parents should start talking to their children about sexual activity around ages about 9-10, or age appropriate, depending on your child’s maturity level. The important thing is to be comfortable with it. I know it’s a subject that we don’t want to talk about, either because of our own experiences at a young age or our own perceptions of our children’s health in the future, but the main thing is to arm them with the knowledge of sexual activity and the consequences of that. Recently, the CDC just put out statistics about the rise in chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, the highest in 20 years that we’ve seen in this country. Also, there had been drug resistance to these different sexually transmitted diseases. Putting those two together, it is going to be a health issue, so we have to talk about those things. There is a certain percentage of these diseases that can be asymptomatic, meaning no symptoms. Asymptomatic infections are on the rise, and also can lead to human papillomavirus, pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and ectopic pregnancy, so it can have devastating consequences for the future of our children. Currently, right now, there is a vaccine for HPV that is indicated for both boys and girls. It is a three-shot series. The earliest time that we start doing that is at 9 years of age. I think one piece of advice that I would give to a parent talking to their child about sexually transmitted diseases and sex is — it’s a part of life. We’re protecting them from the world, from all these other things, but it’s a hidden taboo to kind of talk about sex, so get comfortable with it. It’s not as bad as you think. It can be a real bonding moment to know that, ‘I can talk to my dad or my mom.’ When you do that, the barriers come down, and I think that’s very important, to be comfortable with it.