disease, neurological disorders, and perinatal illness, is not well known or understood by policymakers, many health professionals, or the general public.

In Chapter 3, the committee found that a major barrier to healthy sexual behavior is the lack of awareness regarding STDs and misperception of individual risk, especially among adolescents and young adults. The committee also found that accurate information is important in preventing misperceptions of risk. Programs to promote STD awareness and education, therefore, should result in increased motivation to prevent STDs. Increasing awareness of STDs among health professionals is important because it encourages clinicians to evaluate their patients for STDs when appropriate, thus improving the likelihood of early detection and treatment.

A national initiative to increase public awareness of STDs requires active participation of, and support from, various agencies and organizations from both the private and public sectors. Because of the sensitive nature of effective STD education programs, and the potential constraints upon government-run educational campaigns, an independent organization should develop and implement an appropriate STD education initiative. Along with a national educational initiative, however, it should be recognized that barriers to implementing healthy behaviors also must be reduced. Public health agencies and private health care professionals have a responsibility both to educate and to provide accurate public health information to the community, because providing disease prevention information is an essential component of clinical practice.

Innovative methods for increasing awareness and reaching the public need to be developed. Recent advances in information technology will have a great impact on access to health information among both health professionals and segments of the public. These new technologies should be harnessed to improve awareness and knowledge of STDs and ways to avoid them. Appropriate methods of disseminating information on STDs and local health services include the use of hotlines and evolving information technology, such as the Internet and other electronic methods of disseminating information. The Internet may be an especially effective method for disseminating information to adolescents and young adults because many users of such technology are young.

Therefore, the committee makes the following recommendation:

  • The independent Campaign to establish a new norm of healthy sexual behavior should support and implement a long-term national initiative to increase knowledge and awareness of STDs and to promote ways to prevent them. The initiative should:
  1. be coordinated with HIV- and pregnancy-prevention campaigns;
  2. include a substantial mass media component;
  3. provide information both on how to implement health-protective behaviors and on STDs;

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