The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one-fourth of young women between the ages of 14 and 19—about 3.2 million teenage girls—are infected with at least one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (human papillomavirus or HPV, chlamydia, herpes simplex virus and trichomoniasis). Health effects can range from infertility to cervical cancer. And North Carolina ranks eighth in the nation for teen pregnancy and STDs.
It’s a big problem, but help is on the way, at least locally.
On Saturday, Feb. 7, Playin’ It Safe—a special event designed for teenage girls and their mothers—will tackle such thorny topics as STDs, unintended pregnancy, dating violence and healthy eating head-on. A project of the Girl Scouts of WNC Pisgah Council, the event will feature female medical professionals who’ll provide essential knowledge, hoping to empower young girls to make good choices, organizers say.
“We are surprised at the numbers and the reception that we’re having from the community. It’s obvious that there is an unfilled need for education and information,” council board member Kathleen Balogh reports.
“It is a difficult discussion to have,” she notes, “and if you’re doing it in a safe environment with people who know what they’re talking about, it’s a lot easier than trying to do it on your own—in your car, or in your bedroom, or maybe around the kitchen table.”
The free event, which will include separate breakout sessions for moms and teens led by local female physicians, won’t be an entirely serious affair, however. Attendees will be treated to lunch; there’ll also be a number of giveaways, including gas cards, massages, Biltmore Estate and Dollywood tickets, books and more.
And though it’s designed as a mother/daughter affair, girls may also attend by themselves or as part of a group, provided they have a parent’s permission. Moms—and grandmoms—may also attend alone. Balogh cites a phone call from a grandmother who wanted to attend the event with her granddaughter, but the father wouldn’t let his daughter go. “She asked if she could come by herself,” recalls Balogh. “We said yes. We want to get the information out there.”
Based on the reception they’re getting, the Pisgah Council hopes to offer a similar session next year and perhaps turn it into a series. Anyone not yet registered should contact the council so lunch can be provided, but walk-ins will also be admitted.
To register for Playin’ It Safe, download a registration form and instructions at www.girlscoutswnc.org, or call 252-4442. The conference will take place in A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium, 340 Victoria Road, from 10 to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 7. (For a related story on this event, which was originally scheduled for last fall, see “Playin’ It Safe: Teens, Sex and Reality,” Sept. 24, 2008, Xpress.)