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Teaching about Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
ObjectiveStudents will be able to describe:
- How STIs are transmitted
- The types of symptoms STIs produce
- The importance of seeking treatment for STIs
- How to prevent getting an STI and
- What to do if they get an STI
- Collect or purchase up-to-date pamphlets or fact sheets about six or seven different STIs, (e.g., herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, hepatitis B, HIV, HPV, genital warts). Check that the pamphlets match the group's reading level. Fact sheets are available on-line at the CDC www.cdc.gov/std/healthcomm/fact_sheets.htm and on ASHA's website www.ashastd.org/news/news_factsheets.cfm. Easy-to-read pamphlets can be purchased from ETR Associates at pub.etr.org/.
- Get chart paper (enough for each group to have a page when your class is divided into groups of 3-5 students) and markers.
- List the six to seven STIs to be addressed on the board (the most common ones found among your youth).
- Also list the five general areas of information to be covered:
- Prevention and
Introduce the Activity(10 minutes)
- Explain to students that there are more than 30 STIs, and sometimes it may be overwhelming to know enough about all of them to protect ourselves from infection. The good news is that there are really only five general areas of information that people need to know to protect themselves from STIs. These areas are:
- Transmission: How does the STI pass from one person to another?
- Symptoms: How can people tell if they have the STI?
- Treatment: How is the STI is treated? Is it curable? What happens if it goes untreated?
- Prevention: How can someone prevent getting the STI?
- Responsibility: What should people do if they find out they have an STI?
- Tell students they'll work in small groups to make a poster about one STI. They will be given a pamphlet or fact sheet for a specific STI, and they will make a poster that answers questions about each general area of information.
- Tell students that if the pamphlet or fact sheet does not specifically present information on prevention or responsibility, they should do their best to generate their own ideas for the poster.
- Set parameters for the explicitness of the posters to reflect the maturity of your audience and the standards of the sponsoring agency. (When working in mainstream classrooms, tell students that a guideline is to make a poster that would not shock a principal or parent entering the room.
Students Create the Posters(15 minutes)
- Have the class form small groups (3-5 students in each group. Each group should choose a different STI on which to work.
- Pass out chart paper and markers to each group and the appropriate pamphlet or fact sheet to each student.
- Give the groups 15 minutes to do the posters, writing all the information in a legible and attractive manner.
- When finished, have groups display their posters.
Students Present the Posters(15 - 20 minutes)
- Have each group briefly share their posters and their answers to the questions about STI transmission, symptoms, treatment, prevention and responsibility.
- After all groups have presented, review how STIs are transmitted. Ask if there is a general statement they can make about most STIs, e.g., "STIs are transmitted by sexual contact with an infected person." Write this generalization on the board next to the word "transmission."
Note: Stress that HIV and Hepatitis B may also be transmitted by exchange of contaminated needles.
- Ask the group for general statements about what they learned about STI symptoms, treatment, prevention and responsibility. Write these generalizations on the board. If not mentioned by the students, add important generalizations from information listed below:
- Symptoms: A change in the look or feel of genitals or unusual genital discharges may indicate an STI; for example, sores, lumps, rashes, etc. Some STIs can infect the body without any symptoms. Therefore, it is recommended that sexually active people get tested for STIs on an annual or semi-annual basis.
- Treatment: Anyone who thinks he/she may have an infection should promptly go to a clinic or doctor for medical treatment. It is critical to take all the medication prescribed.
- Prevention: Abstinence is the only 100% way of avoiding STIs. The risk of getting an STI can be reduced by limiting the number of sexual partners and by using latex condoms and spermicide or dental dams every time one has sex. Also, some HPVs can be prevented with use of the HPV vaccine that is now available for young women.
- Responsibility: Anyone with an STI should go to a health care provider for treatment and inform his/her sexual partner or partners.
Summarize the Activity
- Stress that it's not necessary to know detailed information about an STI, such as which symptoms indicate gonorrhea and which indicate syphilis, or what drug is used to treat chlamydia. That's the job of your health care provider.
- Tell students that to protect themselves, they need to remember five things:
- Unprotected sex with an infected person may result in an STI, AND it is not always possible to know if a person has an STI.
- Be aware of how your body feels when it's healthy so you will notice any change that could indicate an STI. And, since some STIs have no symptoms, sexually active people should get tested for STIs annually, if not more often depending on the circumstances.
- If you notice any of the changes that might indicate an STI, you need to go to a clinic or doctor for treatment. STIs do not usually go away on their own; they only get worse.
- Not having sex (abstinence) is the best way to prevent getting STIs. Limiting the number of sexual partners and using condoms with spermicide or dental dams every time can greatly lower the risk of getting an STI.
- If you do have a STI, you need to get medical treatment and let your sexual partner(s) know.