September 2013 - Village Elder Alert: Danger Ahead for Teenage Girls

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As our young people head back to school, it’s important that we revert to our “roots” and put a modern twist on that conversation our parents so often referred to as the “birds and the bees”.

Our sexually charged American culture is problematic on many levels, but none more so than the disease-laden status of its teenage girls. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported in February 2013 that 49% of young women aged 15-24 is infected with one or more of these diseases: Trichonomiasis, Gonorrhea, Genital Herpes, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Chlamydia. All result from sexual contact and have potentially serious consequences. One, HPV, has the potential to evolve into a potentially lethal outcome, Cervical Cancer. The shocking findings have left village elders – parents, medical professionals, teachers, ministers and counselors stunned to the point of disbelief, but paralytic inaction is not what’s needed now – especially in the African American community.

In the past, radio listeners of my former show, “Journey to Wellness,” had varied opinions about how and why we’ve arrived at this health disaster. Some thought the findings were an outright lie; others that lack of access to good healthcare and health insurance were to blame; others believed the culprit is a lack of accurate information and poor communication between teens and parents about sex is the culprit. Interestingly, none thought that African American girls were having more sex than White girls, despite the fact that the Black infection rate is two and half times higher than the White infection rate.

These first and last reactions indicate that both denial and a dangerous disconnect from reality are rampant in our community. Statistics don’t lie and it’s high time our African American village wakes up. Black parents and other adults who care about our children must step forward and declare war on underage sex, unprotected sex and the over-emphasis on sex most media present to our children. CDC recommendations from the research study suggest the expected remedies – more and better screening and treatment options and early immunization against Cervical Cancer. However, these strategies are only half the answer. Proactive parental intervention with our children, oversight of their friendships and activities and frank and factual dialog about sex and sexual relationships are the urgent and appropriate response all village elders must immediately employ.

Clearly, Black teenage girls – and boys – think they’re ready for sex. We know they’re not. The troubling statistics signal that now is the time for our village elders to protect our teens with sound guidance, support, supervision and love, will ensure they leave adolescence healthy, whole and ready for responsible adulthood.

With you on your Journey to Wellness,
Dr. Mary S. Harris

This article first appeared on

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