August 18, 2018 | ° F

Get tested now

It is not common practice for a teen girl to take initiative to spark a sex talk with her parents and to be taken to a reproductive health care provider. Usually, a push comes from a parent to get her checked out and given the routine Pap smear that comes with every gynecologist appointment. This test screens the girl for human papillomavirus and cervical cancer. The norm has been that when the girl turns 18 years old, or becomes sexually active, then she is supposed to start seeing a gynecologist.

According to CNN, new health guidelines are saying that girls can now wait until age 21 to start getting Pap smears. Some health experts are now concerned that rates of sexually-transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancies could increase without the Pap test to prompt a doctor's visit. Ideally, teens should have an HPV shot and see a gynecologist for counseling about STDs before they become sexually active, experts say. They should also be educated about how HPV vaccines don't protect women who have already been infected with the virus.

There may not be an increase in sexually-transmitted diseases and pregnancies, because the doctor's visit does not change a person's behavior patterns, but they do raise awareness. A risk that STDs will go untreated or girls will remain unknowledgeable about the risks does exist. There are girls who will misinterpret the new guidelines as an excuse just not to go get tested if they are sexually active and miss out on important conversations with their doctor.

The real concern that lies with these new guidelines is why they are now suggesting that girls should wait to be tested. It can be compared to the new rules about mammograms and screening women for breast cancer. Women are now advised to wait until they are 50 years old to go get screened for the disease. Many health insurance providers are not going to cover women younger than age 50 for the screening, and that is not right because a lot of cancer cases occur in women younger than 50. The same is going to go for girls and HPV and other STDs. Both changes in guidelines are being backed up with the reasoning that it is to prevent false alarms and unneeded testing for diseases. As far as the Pap smears go, there was such a push for the HPV vaccine and raising awareness about contracting the virus that you would think it would be almost counterproductive in the movement to raise awareness to say you can wait to be tested. When it comes to health, it is better to be safe than sorry, and there should be a push to keep yourself safe and to test for disease as early as possible, especially when the age of sexually-active teens is getting younger everyday.  

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