The Alarming Truth
About the Guest
One of the country's leading experts on teens' and children's health, Dr. Meg Meeker, exposes shocking facts and statistics about sexually transmitted diseases. Meeker, who practices pediatric and adolescent medicine, exhorts parents not to gloss over the dangers of teenage sex, but to encourage abstinence instead.
Dr. Meg Meeker, exposes shocking facts and statistics about sexually transmitted diseases. Meeker exhorts parents not to gloss over the dangers of teenage sex, but to encourage abstinence instead.
The Alarming Truth
Bob: When it comes to the issue of sexually-transmitted diseases and teenagers, we live in a culture where there are mixed messages being sent. Here is Dr. Meg Meeker.
Meg: Can you imagine if we had an immunization that came out to prevent lung cancer in kids, but we allowed cigarette companies to continue to promote them amongst our youth? The country would be, out of their minds, crazy. And here we have an immunization that the American Academy of Pediatrics is telling all pediatricians to start immunizing young girls, as early as nine years of age, and we are living in a culture that continues to pummel our kids with sexual messages.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, May 11th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. You are going to hear today what parents need to do to send the message to the next generation, loud and clear, that premarital sex can be hazardous to your health. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. You know, I think most of our listeners have heard, at some point, the fable/the parable about the frog in the pot/in the kettle.
Bob: And how, when you put a frog in—if you put him in the boiling water, he will jump right out—but if you put him into the water, and it’s lukewarm, and you slowly turn up the heat; he will just cook to death because he adapts / he gradually takes on the characteristics of the water.
With the subject we are going to be talking about today, it does feel like we are in the middle of boiling water and nobody is aware that we’re cooking on this one. Do you know what I mean?
Dennis: And I think what we are about to do is throw the parents into the pot, and they are going to hop out real quick.
They are going to get the point because we have someone who has knowledge of more than just a few facts of how hot the water is and what a serious crisis we have today, especially among our teenagers, when it comes to sexually-transmitted diseases. And, Bob, we probably need to give our listeners a disclaimer, at this point.
Bob: Well, just by introducing that subject, I think listeners know that we are going to be talking, appropriately but candidly, about the issue of STDs and teenage sexuality. It may be inappropriate for younger listeners. So, moms and dads, you will want to make the decision about whether the children, who might be within earshot, should be around as you listen to today’s program.
Dennis: That’s right. We have a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker, who joins us on FamilyLife Today. Meg has been on the program before. Welcome back, Meg!
Meg: Thank you, Dennis. Great to be here!
Dennis: Meg is a mom of four, and she has written six books. She has appeared on 60 Minutes, Dateline with Katie Couric, The Today Show, and The O’Reilly Factor. She has written a book called Your Kids at Risk: How Teen Sex Threatens our Sons and Daughters. I like this book, Meg, because you talk honestly and frankly, not only about the crisis, but also about the solution.
Dennis: You begin the book by saying: “What I am about to share with you is going to shock you. It is going to make you afraid.” And I can say it is going to make you ashamed that we, as parents, don’t really understand what is taking place in our culture today. Explain, as a pediatrician, what you began to see—in fact, you actually described it as a series of small explosions that occurred in your clinic.
Meg: Yes. Yes, and implosions inside of me. I really did! You know, I have been at this a while. I have been in medicine for over 20 years. I have worked in inner cities. I used to work in Teen and Tot Clinics many, many years ago—and I really enjoyed it—teens and pregnancy. I kind of got tired of that.
I thought, you know: “I want to go live in a nice suburban area where I don’t see any of this kind of stuff, and parents read childcare books and mothers are struggling with breast feeding.” I really kind of tried to escape.
I went to a small Midwestern town. What I saw, over the past 20 years—in the changes in the sexual behavior; and the infections amongst younger, younger kids; and the infections that I was seeing in kids that I knew that were my kids’ friends. I was taking care of my friends’ kids in this small town.
Dennis: From good homes?
Meg: Good homes!—good homes—not the troubled kids. I am not talking about the troubled kids. I started to see what I saw in these inner cities and in the troubled kids, years before, creeping into my Middle America practice. I was very, very disturbed.
I was seeing things like early signs of cervical cancer. I was seeing genital herpes infections in young kids.
Bob: How young?—what you are talking about.
Meg: Twelve/thirteen years old.
Bob: Oh, my goodness!
Meg: Yes! I was so outraged that I decided to do some research on this. What really tipped me over the edge and prompted me to write the book was—as I was raising our three daughters, and watching the sort of struggle that I was having with them and what types of clothes they were going to wear—they all wanted to wear Abercrombie & Fitch® jeans, but they were so skimpy and so on and so forth—then I would go into my office, during the day, and I would see a lot of these things behind closed doors.
One particular day, I had a baby delivered to a 27-year-old couple—a lovely couple. On the second day of life, the baby began having seizures—a very healthy baby. I asked Mom and Dad: “What? Did you take any drugs? Did you smoke anything?” The mom said: “No—I swear, up and down, nothing was wrong. I had no infections.”
We did an MRI of the baby’s brain and found that it had little holes in it. There are only a few things that cause these holes in the baby’s brain. I went back to Mom and Dad and said: “I know what is going on here. Which of you has herpes?” And Mom said, “I don’t have genital herpes.” And Dad says: “When I was 17, I had a girlfriend; but I didn’t tell my wife. I have always been safe with my wife so I have always protected her.” Sure enough, the herpes that he got, when he was 17 from one girlfriend, was what was causing the seizures and the severe brain damage in this baby. That was the first time Mom had learned about it.
I went home that night. I was sitting there, watching television with my kids. An advertisement came on the TV—it was a young couple, kayaking down a river. A voice-over came on that said: “Now, you no longer have to let genital herpes interfere with your life. Now, there’s this new drug called…”—Acyclovir, Valtrex, or something.
And that was it—I exploded! I said: “Wait a minute! Why doesn’t somebody tell the kids, out there, that having sex when you’re a teenager is extremely, extremely dangerous?”
That is what prompted my research and prompted me writing this book—because I felt every single parent of a child in America needs to know what kids are facing—because it is not the 1970s, the 1980s, or even the 1990s anymore, as far as the sexual landscape of our youth—very, very different.
Dennis: I heard from a friend, who is a researcher, that back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, there were five known sexually-transmitted diseases in the culture.
Dennis: He said that today there are 50!
Dennis: Now, is that accurate?
Meg: It is very accurate. Actually, it depends on how you count. We could say there are a whole lot more—if you take, for instance, human papillomavirus/HPV, which causes cervical cancer—there are 80 to 100 strains of HPV alone.
Now, only about a dozen of those cause cancer; but do we say HPV is one infection? Or do we say it is 12 infections? Or do we count it as 80 infections? So, it really depends on how you count. We only learned that HPV causes cervical cancer in the 1990s.
Many times, people say, “Well, you know, if they are out there, why don’t we know about it?” Because a lot of the sex education programs in schools are very outdated because many of them have to go through government screening, and regulations, and so forth, and things are changing so fast that even the medical community has difficulty keeping up with the numbers here.
Bob: Here is what I remember about STDs—learning when I was growing up—I remember hearing that there were two—syphilis and gonorrhea.
Bob: And if they were untreated, you could go crazy; but now, there are drugs that can treat them and you will be okay.
Meg: A shot of penicillin and you are all set.
Bob: That is what I remember. I thought, “Well, I don’t want to get anything that’ll cause me to go crazy, but I am glad that they have a drug that will treat it.”
That’s the education that I got about STDs. You are saying, today, the landscape is completely different than that and kids aren’t hearing the truth about STDs?
Meg: No—no, they are not. You know, I wanted to clarify something here—people hear “abstinence education vs comprehensive safe-sex education.” There is a lot of misunderstanding about that. Abstinence is advertised—by those who don’t teach it—that it is inaccurate, medically, and it withholds information. Nothing could be further from the truth. It tells the truth about what condoms reduce the risk of and what they don’t reduce the risk of. It is really important to know the numbers.
I have been in practice over 20 years. When I finished residency, I never saw AIDS. I didn’t see herpes very much. You know, we just didn’t see a lot of what we see now.
People ask, “Where did all these germs come from?” We can actually track them—
—we can track them to a couple of things. We track them to when the birth-control pill came out in the 60s. Then, in the late 60s and early 70s, women said: “You know, if guys are doing it, then we want to do it too. We are going to be feminists. We are going to throw the doors wide open.” It started the Sexual Revolution. And we—as our generation propelled the Sexual Revolution forward, there was only chlamydia and gonorrhea. So, we sort of “got by” okay; but what happened then is—we threw all of these other infections—that came about because of multiple partners and this free sex—onto the next generation.
So this really truly is a burden that we have unloaded on our kids. Many times, as I speak to kids around the country, I apologize to them on behalf of my generation. I say: “I am sorry that we threw this on you. This is not your fault, but this is what you have to contend with. Many of your parents aren’t going to address this with you because they still think that it is 1975. They got by, and they say you will get by too—that is not the truth!”
Dennis: Yes! They may have not caused it, but it is their responsibility to be able to handle it today.
Dennis: And it is pervasive!
Dennis: If you have a stadium—let’s take the Rose Bowl that will seat more than a hundred thousand people—but let’s say you have a hundred thousand teenagers in the Rose Bowl, how many of those hundred thousand would have a sexually-transmitted disease by the time they graduate from high school?
Meg: We know that, at least, 20,000 of those students will have an STD.
Bob: If I am at my high school—and I am walking down the hall, every fifth kid I am seeing likely has an STD?
Meg: Would have something. Now, that is the data that I put in my book that came out a few years ago. That number has now jumped to one in four. It used to be one in four, for sexually-active teens—now, it is one in four for teens, across the board. This is how quickly things are changing!
They need to know this because the numbers are rising. For those who say: “Oh, we will just teach our kids about condoms. Comprehensive safe-sex education works.” We have been teaching that to our kids for almost 20 years and, in the midst of that, disease rates have gone up, and up, and up, and up.
Dennis: You write in your book—now, this is an astounding and a chilling number—that 45 million Americans are infected with herpes.
Meg: Yes—type 2 alone—not herpes type 1—just genital herpes. That doesn’t include herpes type 1.
Bob: Okay, I don’t understand what you’re saying about type 1 and type 2.
Meg: There are two types of herpes—herpes type 2 is genital herpes / type 1 is lip herpes. What you are referring to is just herpes type 2 alone.
Dennis: Forty-five million Americans.
Meg: Yes, yes.
Bob: Not just a sore on your lip.
Meg: Not just a sore—this is genital herpes I’m talking about.
Meg: And that is according to the New England Journal of Medicine. This is rock-hard science! It is indisputable science.
Dennis: So, here we are—we are watching TV.
Dennis: And we have all of these shows on TV that show free sex—
Dennis: —people who are just shacking up and sleeping with each other. They can almost assume that one out of every four people they sleep with is going to be infected with—
Dennis: —with a sexually-transmitted disease.
Dennis: Which means, statistically, they are likely to get it too; right?
Meg: You bet! You bet. I tell kids that—“If you have had over two partners, you have got something.” Kids will say: “Yes, yes, yes; but Dr. Meeker, I don’t have the symptoms. I don’t see anything wrong.” And I tell them: “Over 80 percent of the time you have an infection, there are no symptoms. There are no symptoms to HPV. Often, there are no symptoms.”
For instance, with this young gal, who delivered the baby with the genital herpes, didn’t know she had it because she never had a symptom; but she still had the virus. This is an enormous problem because many people, who have an infection—even AIDS/HIV—have no symptoms for a long time.
The time that a person with HIV is most infectious is right before their blood test turns positive. Right before they know they have HIV is the time when they are most likely to spread it because the concentration of the virus is the highest in their blood.
Bob: If I have got an STD and no symptoms—I am thinking, “Well, okay, so I have got some infection with no symptoms.”
Bob: “What’s the problem?”
Meg: Exactly—“What’s the big deal?” The big deal is that herpes cannot be killed. We can keep it at bay with certain medications. Once you have it, you have it for life! And you will have sores that break out. It affects child-bearing—it affected this baby.
Dennis: Did that baby live?
Meg: That baby lived! I still have that baby in our practice. Fifty percent of the time—a baby is born to a mother, who has had her first serious infection of herpes—50 percent of the time, those babies die,—the other 50 percent of the time, babies live; but they usually have some type of brain injury like my patient has.
Dennis: So, this baby is severely handicapped?
Meg: Yes, yes; but is older today.
Dennis: Okay! Let’s talk about HPV as a disease. There is now a serum/a shot that you can give—
Meg: Yes, yes.
Dennis: —a young lady.
Dennis: So I am going to put the question to you—not as a physician but as a mom—would you have your daughters take that shot?
Meg: If they are 9, or 10, or 15—no. If they are adults, and they are not sexually active, yes. Here is why I say that—I know that we might get a lot of mail about this. Gardasil® protects against two of the strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer and two that cause warts. That doesn’t ensure that they are going to be prevented from getting cervical cancer—it just helps—I always tell girls that.
I feel pretty confident, as a mother and as a pediatrician, that I can help girls remain abstinent until they are married because many of the girls in my practice say that, once they commit to it, it is not that hard—particularly once they get older.
But, now—and I have seen this happen—now, my patient or daughter goes and marries a guy, who is in his 20s—but he had a partner, when he was 15, or 16, or 17, and maybe another partner—maybe a one-night stand. He will give that girl HPV, and I want her protected. So, unless I can be assured that her husband is a virgin and she is a virgin, she won’t need any kind of Gardasil. But, if you can’t be assured that the husband is a virgin, then you feel that the daughter should be protected.
Dennis: Isn’t this an interesting age in which we are alive? I mean, think about it—
Meg: We have gone mad!
Dennis: —that we are talking about this—
Meg: We’ve gone mad.
Dennis: —as adults, about protecting our daughters because the culture has such a pervasive epidemic of sexually-transmitted diseases that we have to have this conversation to think about protecting our daughters around “What if…”
Bob: Why hasn’t the CDC or the National Institutes of Health—why isn’t every news magazine screaming: “We have an STD epidemic!”?
Meg: Ahh that is the million-dollar question. Can you imagine if we had an immunization that came out to prevent lung cancer in kids, but we allowed cigarette companies to continue to promote them amongst our youth? The country would be, out of their minds, crazy.
There are several reasons why this epidemic is not on the cover of Time magazine. It is on the CDC’s website, and they say it is an epidemic. They call it: “Tracking the hidden epidemic.” The NIH knows it is an epidemic.
It is because, when you go to a country that is making billions of dollars, using sex to sell products, you get the ire up of many of those people if you come out and say: “Whoa, whoa, whoa—we’ve got serious problems here. What you are doing is bad for our kids.”
We have studies that show kids, who watch sex on TV, are more likely to initiate sex early in life. We have studies that show if they watch too much violence on TV, they turn out violent. We know there is a correlation between seeing it, and hearing about it, and teen sexual activity; but nobody will back off.
First: Because it makes a lot of money; secondly: Because we have a generation of people, from 40 to 60 years of age, who fought very hard for sexual freedom—and they will hold onto it with their life. When we go up and say: “Wait a minute. What we have espoused and what we embraced—as almost an American right—sexual freedom—and it is not okay for our kids,” you really push the buttons in people.
Meg: People, who may otherwise think that teens shouldn’t be having sex—but when it talks about threatening their sexual freedom—people start to think very unclearly. This is my experience.
Bob: Here is what you are saying, and I think you are absolutely right—Romans, Chapter 1, says that people are prone to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” You are saying that 40- to 60-year-olds—Baby Boomers—are saying: “We can’t acknowledge the reality of an STD epidemic because then I would have to confront the fact that my own sexual irresponsibility / my own sexual sin is what brought us here. I don’t want to confess that, and I don’t want to repent.”
Dennis: And she’s also saying that, as 30-, 40-, 50-, and 60-year-olds, we’re running corporations in America, whose very capitalistic bent is being fed—
Bob: —is dependent upon—
Dennis: —by poisoning a generation and turning out girls, who are going to have cancer—they’re going to die, their babies may die, their babies may have diseases.
Meg: Absolutely, and we’re seeing this on the rise.
Dennis: Well, it is not a hopeless situation.
Meg: Not at all!
Dennis: This is an assignment for parents. There is no human organization that can take on this issue—no corporation. It is ultimately the responsibility of moms and dads and families to address this issue and become knowledgeable about what is taking place—and then engage their kids, and begin to train them, and help them understand how they can be abstinent, and how, if they have made a mistake, they can be tested and get some treatment now—not waiting until the disease has progressed until they have an infection, like you described in your book, where the young lady has to have a hysterectomy.
Dennis: And that is what is happening in our country. That is why parents must be parents.
Bob: And I hope that moms and dads are getting the message. We are not, here, trying to sound an alarm about something that is kind of out there in a few instances.
Dennis: No, this is not an ancillary issue. This is where your kids are going to school, right now.
Bob: That is why we are hoping that moms and dads will get a copy of Dr. Meg Meeker’s book, Your Kids at Risk, to better understand what this issue is because, if you’re not aware of everything that’s going on, this is a book that can help you know, not just what the issues are, but how to discuss these issues with your children. In fact, this is the kind of book you could go through together with your teenager—to help your son or your daughter understand, not only the physical dangers that come with extra-marital and premarital sex, but the emotional scars that come along with that kind of behavior as well.
We have got copies of the book, Your Kids at Risk, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” You will see Dr. Meeker’s book there.
Again, the book is called Your Kids at Risk. You can order from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY,” for more information on how to get Dr. Meg Meeker’s book, Your Kids at Risk.
You know, talking about this subject, I’m thinking about how one of our goals, here at FamilyLife Today,is to provide our listeners with the kind of important information that husbands and wives and moms and dads need to be hearing so that we can do the job God has called us to do. We live in a culture that, oftentimes, does not reinforce the values we’re trying to make central in our homes. FamilyLife Today is here to inform you, to alert you, and to provide you with practical biblical help for your marriage and your family.
I want to say a quick word of thanks, Dennis, to the folks who make FamilyLife Today possible—ourLegacy Partners, who donate each month to support this ministry—and those of you who, from time to time, will make a donation in support of this ministry. I want to let you know that right now is a particularly good time for you to make one of those occasional donations because we’ve had some friends of the ministry, who have come along and agreed to match every donation we receive, during the month of May, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to a total of $300,000.
We are very excited about that opportunity, hoping to take full advantage of that opportunity during the month of May. We’re asking you to go online, or to call, or to mail a donation to us, knowing that your donation’s impact will be doubled because of this matching opportunity. You can donate, online—just go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link that says, “I CARE,” in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make your donation over the phone. Or mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we want to explore the link between teen sexuality and depression as we continue our conversation tomorrow with Dr. Meg Meeker about teen sexual behavior. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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