As a responsible teen, you know it is important to understand your body and sexual health before you become sexually active or if you are already having sex. With all the media hype and mis-information, it is very important to know the facts and have an honest, clear and accurate understanding of sex, no matter how old you are. You need someone you can talk to, confide in and rely on to give you accurate and unbiased information in order to make the right choices.
Choices has a sexual health program designed just for teens and it is 100% confidential! Choices doctors and health care professionals are experts in sexual and reproductive health and will provide you with the support, guidance and information that are so critical in making the right choices for you. Choices is the place to go for your first gynecological exam, for birth control, STI testing or if you think you may have a problem and are experiencing pain or discomfort. Even if you are just plain worried and feeling pressured about having sex, give Choices a call and have a confidential meeting with a counselor or health care provider. Choices staff is educated and sensitive to issues of gender identity and sexual orientation. You can be assured of a supportive and non-judgmental environment. You can walk in, call, text or book an online appointment and be seen right away, even the same or next day.
In addition, you may want to consider speaking to your parents or another trusted adult about what you may be feeling physically or emotionally. It is natural to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable but your parents or a trusted adult can help you to understand what is happening to your body and emotions, and what is normal, and how to get the most benefit from a visit to a specialist in sexual health.
Choices Teen Services
If you are 18 or under and have ID, you can walk-in and receive a free pregnancy test.
If you think you have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease or are experiencing symptoms like discharge, itching, a rash or anything that doesn’t feel normal, contact Choices immediately to make an appointment for counseling, testing and treatment if needed. A Choices healthcare professional will answer all your questions, get you the treatment you need and help you make responsible decisions regarding your sexual health. It is confidential, just between you and your Choices healthcare professional, and no one can get information on you unless you want them to. Remember, stay safe and understand that only properly used LATEX condoms and barriers provide protection against sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. Here are a few important facts about STIs and solid reasons why you should get tested:
<li> Gonorrhea – Symptoms usually appear about 12-10 days after infection and include discharge from the penis, vagina or rectum, painful or difficult urination and in women, abdominal pain and bleeding between periods. It can be cured with antibiotics, but if left undiagnosed and untreated it can damage joints, heart and brain and in females, cause pelvic inflammatory disease that may, in the future, result in problems with pregnancy or infertility.
<li> Syphilis – Symptoms usually appear about 2-6 weeks after infection and include painless sore(s) on or near your genitals, anus, or mouth. The sores may eventually go away. About 3-6 weeks after the sore appears, you may experience a rash on your hands, feet or other body parts which can come and go over a 1- to 2-year period. Though it can be cured with antibiotics, if left untreated syphilis can cause heart damage, blindness and in extreme cases, permanent insanity or death.
<li> Genital Herpes – Symptoms usually appear about 2-10 days after infection and include itching, burning, pain in your legs, buttocks or genital area, vaginal discharge, pressure in your abdomen or small red bumps that crust over and heal in a few days. These symptoms can reoccur throughout life and may be set off by sun or stress. If you have sores, keep them clean and dry and don’t touch them to avoid spreading the infection. There is NO CURE for Herpes but medication can help with the symptoms. • Chlamydia – Symptoms usually appear about 1-3 weeks after infection and include discharge from your penis or vagina and burning while urinating. Though it can be cured by antibiotics, pelvic inflammatory disease or infertility still could occur.
<li> Hepatitis B – Symptoms usually appear about 4 weeks or more after infection. You may feel fatigue, have diarrhea, dark foamy urine, or pale feces, you may have pains in your stomach, your skin and eyes may have a yellow tinge or you may feel pain in your joints. THERE IS NO CURE, infection is lifelong. Most people recover but some become carriers for life. Others may experience fatal liver problems, including cancer and immune system problems. Medications, a balanced and nutritional diet, rest and avoiding alcohol help the condition.
<li> Genital Warts – Symptoms appear about 3 months or more after infection and include small, hard, painless bumps inside or around the vagina, penis, anus or mouth, that may develop tops that look like cauliflower tops. The warts are removed by using surface medications, or by freezing or laser, but THERE IS NO CURE and the warts may come back after treatment. Sometimes genital warts make delivery during pregnancy difficult. They have been linked to genital cancer. There is a vaccination called HPV/Gardasil that you can get to prevent this condition. Contact a Choices health care expert for more information; you can text or set up an appointment online.
<li> Trichomoniasis – Symptoms appear about 1-2 weeks or more after infection and include discharge from your vagina, itching, swelling or redness in the vagina, pain during sex, burning while urinating. Guys may not have any symptoms but can infect others. Though it can be cured with antibiotics, if untreated this infection may cause serious problems that are related to pregnancy.
Choices offers comprehensive and confidential HIV counseling and testing for teens. All Choices counselors are New York State-trained to work with individuals who may test positive for HIV. Choices offers a two-counseling visits program: the first visit is scheduled right before you are tested to answer any questions you may have and to explain how testing works, and the second visit is scheduled after the test results are in so that you can review the test results with the support of a counselor, get answers to your questions and, if necessary, begin to put a treatment and support program in place.
You need to understand the facts, and Choices will provide you with them. For example, casual, non-intimate contact does not transmit HIV from one person to another. It takes a direct blood-to-blood or semen/vaginal fluid-to-blood exchange to pass the virus on to another person. Be safe by being careful because direct contact with the body fluids containing blood from a person with HIV may increase the risk of infection. Most HIV/AIDS cases are linked to unprotected sexual activity and intravenous (IV) drug use. Most people with HIV do not show signs of the disease and may not even be aware that they have it, which is why it is so important to get tested and tested often if you have unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. If you feel that you may have been exposed to HIV/AIDS, even if you are not experiencing any symptoms, remember you can transmit this virus to others via sexual intercourse or needle sharing. And remember, most methods of birth control DO NOT PROVIDE HIV/AIDS PROTECTION.
We develop relationships with every person we come into regular contact with; family members, schoolmates, friends, teachers and romantic partners. Some relationships can be sexual, but all relationships should make you feel comfortable, secure and respected. Contact a Choices counselor if a relationship you are in involves hitting or other violence, if someone makes you feel trapped, isolated, frightened or bad about yourself. You need help if someone forces you to have sex or do other things you don’t want to do. Everyone deserves to be in relationships that are based upon mutual respect, on trust, on honesty, that are supportive and uplifting, that make you happy, secure and feel safe. You should be able to communicate clearly and openly within all intimate relationships about everything, including your past and present sexual activity.
Here is what an unhealthy relationship may look like:
<li>If there is abuse through words (emotional), through actions (physical) or sexually.
<li>If one person tries to control or manipulate the other.
<li>If one person makes the other feel bad about themselves.
<li> If one person continually criticizes the other person.
<li> If one person is afraid of the other’s temper.
<li> If one person tries to keep the other isolated from others, discouraging other friendships or forbidding activities that do not include them.
<li> If one person ignores the other when they are speaking.
<li> If one person is very possessive or gets jealous for no reason at all.
<li> If one person threatens the other with harm or bullies the other.
<li> If one person controls or takes away the other’s cell phone, keys or other possessions.
If you experience any of the above situations you are more than likely in an unhealthy, perhaps dangerous, relationship, and you need to get help. A Choices counselor will help you get the support you need to get out of that relationship and to set up a support team made up of friends, trusted adults, help hot-lines and professional organizations, such as The Door, Safe Space and GEMS (Girls Education & Mentoring Services) to keep you safe.
Safe sex is smart sex – and it’s now called safer sex because it is a harm reduction strategy that could keep you healthy and maybe even save your life. If you are sexually active, if you have or had multiple sexual partners, if you have or had a sexually transmitted infection (STI), the only sex you should be having is safe sex. It protects you and your partner against unwanted pregnancies, transmitting HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted infections. The idea is to eliminate risk. A person may be infected, and may potentially infect others, without showing signs of disease. The best plan if you are sexually active is to reduce the risk associated with the exchange of bodily fluids; blood, vaginal fluid and semen as much as possible.
Be smart. Use male condoms, female condoms or dental dams as barriers. Be bold. Ask your partner(s) about their sexual history and be willing to share your own. Be sensible. Limit the number of people you have sex with.
As with most things in life, knowledge empowers you. Learn about safe sex. Speak to a Choices sexual health professional about safe sex practices. Do whatever you can to reduce the risk of infection. Remember that some safe sex practices such as condoms can also be used as birth control, but most forms of contraception do not protect against sexually transmitted infections. Contact a Choices health care expert for more information; you can call, text or set up an appointment online.
One last thing: a conversation with a Choices health care professional, about safe sex methods and information, is completely confidential.
You may have heard friends talking or worrying about getting genital warts, lesions or sores through sexual contact. Gardasil, a new vaccine can protect girls and young women, ages 9 through 26, against HPV, the Human Papilloma Virus, that causes 90% of all genital wart cases. But as with all vaccines, Gardasil may not fully protect you against this virus if you have already been exposed.
Genital warts are hard to see. They are the same color as your skin and can grow inside or outside of your genital area. They can hurt, itch, bleed or cause discomfort and may be difficult to treat and remove. Regardless of your gender or age and if you are sexually active and have sex involving genital contact, there is a 50% chance that you will catch HPV during your lifetime. HPV can cause changes in the cells of your cervix, a pre-cancerous condition that if left untreated can cause cancer of the cervix. A confidential appointment with a Choices gynecologist will provide you with all the information you need to decide whether or not the Gardasil vaccine is right for you. Also, consider speaking to your parents or another trusted adult about Gardasil as a way to prevent HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
If you are a victim of rape or sexual violence you must get help immediately. You may feel confused, overwhelmed with fear, anger, shock and rage. You may feel withdrawn, depressed and want to be alone. You may feel panic and be full of fear. You may struggle to carry on with everyday life and pretend that nothing is wrong. There is no right or wrong way to feel after someone hurts you, but you cannot go through it alone. Understand that what is happening to you is NOT your fault. You must tell someone, a parent or trusted adult and if that is too hard for you, you must reach out and talk to a counselor that will provide confidential support, care and guidance to stop the violence and get you to safety. Choices counselors are trained to deal with situations like yours. You can trust them. Reach out and call or text for a same or next day appointment, and let a Choices counselor help to get you out of danger.