By Maya Collins, 15
(All names have been changed.)
Working as a peer educator at Grady Memorial Hospital’s Teen Clinic has given me a firsthand glance at the consequences of having sex at an early age. Every week I see teens who are either pregnant, infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI), or both. Interacting with the teens has opened my eyes to the risks of having sex, and has helped me decide to remain abstinent until marriage.
Before being certified to work at the clinic, we peer educators had to go through a lot of intense training sessions. Our supervisor showed us pictures of sexually transmitted infections. The images were really graphic and took me by surprise. A lot of the peer educators, including myself, were speechless. I crossed my legs and decided I wouldn’t be having sex for a long time.
I quickly realized that the job wouldn’t be as easy as I thought. My primary role was to lead discussions on abstinence, substance abuse, and nutrition with other teens while they waited to see a doctor. Sounds simple enough, right? Not really.
My first day on the job, I ran into a lot of attitudes. Some girls just didn’t want to listen to what I had to say about STIs. Frustrated, I thought to myself, “If they had any sense they’d wanna listen to me. They were the ones having unsafe sex, not me!”
My negative opinions changed when I saw Megan, a friend I hadn’t seen since middle school. She walked in with her head down and sunglasses on, even though it was cloudy outside. I tried not to let Megan know that I recognized her. Still, I couldn’t help but notice her strange behavior. Megan spoke quietly and told the receptionist she’d come to get her test results. I kept my back to her as she walked by so I wouldn’t embarrass her.
Later, Megan and I happened to make eye contact. I asked how she was doing and if she remembered me.
“Yeah, I remember you,” she said. Her eyes were red. “I’ll be all right. They gave me some medicine. I know I’m gonna start using these condoms, though. You ain’t gonna tell anyone you saw me up here, are you?”
“No,” I told her. “I’ll keep it between you and me.”
Before, I sort of looked down on teens who had sex early in life. I thought they should know about the risks, and therefore deserved the consequences. Not having sex made me feel that I was above the patients. But seeing my old friend in such a sad condition helped make me more compassionate and understanding. Just because a teen decides to have sex early in life doesn’t make her/him any worse or better of a person than I.
One Saturday at the clinic, I met a boy named Devon. He played football at his high school and came to the clinic for a physical. We talked for a couple of minutes and exchanged numbers.
A couple of days later, Devon called me. He wanted me to come over to his house before I went to work. I briefly considered going over that. That was, until he hinted that he would be expecting me to have sex if I came.
For a moment Devon sounded very convincing. I actually thought about visiting him. I wasn’t used to receiving this type of attention from a guy and it intrigued me. The way he talked about how “satisfied” I’d be after visiting him made the idea even more tempting.
Then I thought about everything I learned from my training at the clinic. Pictures of the STIs ran through my head and reminded me about why I decided to remain abstinent.
“Devon isn’t even my boyfriend,” I thought to myself. “If I have sex with him this time, will he keep asking me for it? Does he really like me for me? He says he’s not infected with anything, but what if he is and just doesn’t know it yet? What if he passes something on to me?”
After a great deal of thought, I told Devon that I wouldn’t make it over to his house anytime soon. Deciding not to have sex gave me the peace of mind that I wouldn’t contract STIs or get pregnant. It also felt good to stand my ground in a difficult situation.
I hope other teens will be able to do the same.
© Copyright 2009 VOX Teen Communications.