The city of Philadelphia’s campaign against sexually transmitted diseases is both pragmatic and smart, and Mayor Michael Nutter and Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz should be commended for going forth with it.

It was a bold step despite the fact that Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of STDs—chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis—among teens and young adults nationally, because we as citizens of America are still somewhat immature about sex.

We know what it is. We know how to do it. We know the pros and cons of it. But when it comes to having a sober, intelligent, expansive conversation about it, we, as adults, giggle like 13-year-olds.

If we don’t laugh, we refuse to talk about it. Worst of all, in our shame and silence we let moral dogma prevail over reality, biology and common sense.

Just about every preacher, devout churchgoer and self-identified Christian, Muslim or Jew reading this—especially those of African-American extraction—is probably upset about the aforementioned statement, but it is the primary reason STDs run rampant in our community.

Nobody is saying pre-teens and teens should be encouraged to have sex before marriage.

Abstinence is a useful weapon in the arsenal of arms against STDs, teen, unwed and unwanted pregnancies and a myriad of other problems.

It should be drilled into virgins in a robust manner, but abstinence alone only gets us to where we are now.

You can’t teach it to those who are already sexually active, and it should be taught right along with sex education to kids before high school, when it’s already long too late.

Sex education K-8 in Philadelphia schools is virtually nonexistent.

So, for those youngsters who decide to become sexually active, condoms and knowledge are the best solutions.

This is an emergency. This is no time for philosophical arguments, religious or otherwise. This is a crisis.

Teens who are infected with STDs are nearly three times more likely to contract HIV/AIDs, which is a leading cause of death among African Americans.

Black teens are infected with STDs at a rate 33 times that of white teens.

Youngsters ages 10-19 accounted for 45 percent of the 19,000 cases of chlamydia last year in Philadelphia and 33 percent were between ages 20-24.

In 2008, among youth between the ages of 10 and 19, Allegheny County had approximately 2000 reported cases of chlamydia, approximately 600 reported cases of gonorrhea, and no reported cases of syphilis.

In 2008, among young adults between the ages of 20 and 24, Allegheny County had approximately 1800 reported cases of chlamydia, approximately 700 reported cases of gonorrhea, and eight reported cases of syphilis.

In 2005, Blacks were 13 percent of the U.S. population but accounted for 49 percent of people in this country living with HIV/AIDs.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)

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