Every year, almost 20 million new STD infections occur in America, and half of those are in young people aged 15 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Not only do these sexually transmitted diseases contribute to health problems, including infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and cancer, it also contributes to an approximate $16 billion in healthcare costs. Many of these cases could be prevented through proper screening and the use of protection. However, many people lack the education to protect themselves and their partners from contracting an STD. St. Louis has taken measures to combat STDs, including a new program that trains barbers and cosmetologists to be safe sex educators.
The Problem of STDS
Sexually transmitted diseases include a wide variety of conditions, including syphilis, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, herpes, hepatitis, and HPV (human papillomavirus virus). HIV/AIDS is not technically categorized as an STD, but it another disease commonly transmitted through sex, and contracting an STD also increases your chance of getting an HIV. STDS range in their symptoms, severity, treatment, and long-term effect. Many can never be cured but can be treated to reduce the symptoms and effects. The right protection can also prevent the disease from being passed to a partner.
Unfortunately, a large portion of those affected with STDS have no knowledge of the infection, and unwittingly spread the disease to their partners, who in turn could continue to spread the disease to other partners. STD screening is not commonly done as part of routine healthcare check ups, with only about a third of US physicians actually performing screenings.
A Lack of Sex Education
One reason that STDs continue to be problematic is that many schools provide abstinence only programs. This type of education only teaches abstinence to try to deter sexual activity among young people. These people never learn about proper protection against STDs, AIDS, and pregnancy, including the proper use of condoms and other contraception devices. Because the government continually supports abstinence only programs, they tend to be the more common teaching, so many young people miss out on important health education. Studies have shown that comprehensive sex education is the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, STDs, and even delaying initiation of sex, according to Advocates for Youth.
St. Louis Thinks Outside the Box
The city of St. Louis had one of the highest rates of STD cases in the country, so the city health officials started to look for ways to educate the public about safe sex measures beyond the classroom. One cutting edge initiative they implemented was partnering with local barbershops and salons to create a new place for safe sex education, according to CBS St. Louis. Already, there are six barbers that have signed up to participate in the plan.
The plan is not to hold comprehensive sex education classes in the barbershop or beauty salon. Instead, it is about educating the barbers and cosmetologists to be able to hold educated conversations about safe sex. They will be able to provide their clients with advice on STD screening and protection with the right information, including where to get STD screenings and find more safe sex resources.
Why Use Barbershops and Beauty Salons
The idea to use barbers and cosmetologists comes from the fact that these professionals already have a close and intimate relationship with their clients. Many conversations over a haircut or shave concern relationships, including talking about sex. This opens up the perfect space for barbers to suggest getting STD screenings, provide information on protection, and more. Furthermore, barbershops have long been a space for communal and political action, according to Bustle.
This latest initiative out of St. Louis is capitalizing on the close relationship between client and barber or beautician to impart vital information to keep them healthy and safe. It is not the only initiative the St. Louis health officials have begun to reduce their STD rate, but it is an important way to spread safe sex education to people of any age, gender, or sexuality for a healthier and safer city.
As a cosmetologist or barber, there is always room to add to your education. Check out Beauty Academy’s continuing education courses to complete your requirements to renew your cosmetology license.