Howard County Protects Students Against Rising Threat of STIs

In response to an increasing threat of sexually transmitted infections, Howard County offers condoms upon request to help protect students from STIs in Howard County.

In 2017, Chlamydia was the most reported STI in Howard County with 1,136 reported cases followed by 235 cases of Gonorrhea, according to the Maryland Department of Health.

Howard County teens contributed to the significant number of STIs. Of the 2017 numbers, people age 15 to 24 accounted for 775 of all  Chlamydia cases in the county (68 percent), and 101 of the gonorrhea cases (43 percent), according to The Baltimore Sun.

This rise represents an STI epidemic across the United States, Dr. Gail Bolan, the director of sexually transmitted disease prevention at the C.D.C, told The New York Times.  “Most people with these STDs do not know they are infected,” she said. “They don’t realize that these diseases are spreading silently through the country.”

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea might seem like just a hypothetical to some teens, or just a minor issue since there is treatment. However, some people do not have any symptoms when they have an STI, and the danger of an untreated Chlamydial infection could cause pregnancy  complications and infertility in men and women.

In response, the Howard County Public School System, the Howard County Department of Health, and the Maryland Department of Health partnered together to offer Howard County High school students condoms available in the health rooms.

A Wilde Lake senior walked into the health room and walked out with free condoms, and was shocked at how easy and non-judgmental it was to receive them.

“I wasn’t really sure how to ask so I walked in and didn’t talk right away,” he explained, “but then the nurse asked what I needed. I said ‘could I get some condoms?’ and she was like ‘of course,’ and then I walked out of there with a brown paper bag. It was super easy.”

The health room also provides test kits for STIs to students who want to have testing done. Both the request for condoms and the tests are completely confidential, meaning that parents are not informed of either request, according to the description on the HCPSS website.

A Wilde Lake parent sees the necessity for the program to encourage safe sex. “I don’t necessarily want sex to be advocated for at a high school level, but I’d rather have my child be safe than deal with the repercussions of a bad decision,” he said.

The health room provides a safe environment, according to nurse Ms. Dickerson. “Any student who attends Wilde Lake can walk into the health room and no questions will be asked. Some students are nervous, but there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. We’ve passed out roughly 15 bags every two weeks.”

In each bag of condoms, information fact sheets on proper use of condoms is included. In addition, health classes will teach S.T.I. prevention and proper use of condoms, which most students feel the curriculum has lacked. “They preach abstinence in high school,”  senior Adriana Irizarry-Cruz said. “There are going to be people that have sex whether they teach abstinence or not, at least now they’re being realistic about high schoolers and helping them be safe.”