How does your county fare? Explore the State of Sex Ed with us.


SafeTeens The State of Sex Ed

SafeTeens, in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Partnership for Health Youth, is proud to introduce The State of Sex Ed, our county-by-county inventory of sexual health education programs and resources in Pennsylvania.

Schools, community-based organizations, and other youth-serving entities can explore The State of Sex Ed to identify available adolescent sexual health programming in their communities, as well as develop and use programs and resources more efficiently and effectively.

If you know of a sexuality education program, we would like you to participate by adding your information.  It’s simple; to get started, enter your school or organization’s adolescent sexual health programs. Once this information is entered, you’ll be able to explore the various  programming tools that other youth-serving organizations are providing across Pennsylvania to help improve adolescent sexual health.

We trust that you will value this inventory and that you will use it to explore the resources that are available in your community.

Welcome to this exciting online community of Pennsylvania providers!



Prepare for Freshman Year…With a GYN exam (It’s not that bad!)


AR-140729874Editor’s note: This article originally appeared at Geisinger.org. Geisinger is one of the nation’s largest rural health services organizations, serving more than 2.6 million residents throughout 44 counties in central and northeast Pennsylvania. Whether you have insurance or not, you can make an appointment for a free or low cost GYN exam at health centers across Pennsylvania.


Timing is everything

Most colleges and universities require their incoming students to have a routine physical completed before reporting to their first class. This ensures that students are healthy and up-to-date on immunizations before coming into a close-living and learning situation.

The same can be said about women having a routine gynecological exam before they begin their freshman year.

“It’s recommend that women have their first gynecological exam between the ages of 15 and 18,” said Brian Murray, M.D., a gynecologist at Geisinger Mt. Pleasant, Scranton. “All women should have had a gynecological exam by the time they’re ready to begin college at age 18. However, if a woman becomes sexually active prior to their 18th birthday, GYN exams should begin sooner.”

If a young woman hasn’t had a GYN exam before, having one prior to leaving for school will ensure they are healthy and informed about how to protect their health.


The exam explained

Before any part of the actual exam begins, your doctor will likely take some time to talk to you and get to know you a little better. This is meant not only to put you at ease and calm your nerves, but also to get a picture of your overall health and any risk factors you may have for health conditions.

“The first part of a routine GYN exam involves your doctor performing a breast exam — this allows your doctor to look for or identify any unusual lumps or changes in the tissue and skin,” Dr. Murray said. During this part of the exam, your doctor will also show you how to perform a self-breast exam so you can check for any lumps or changes in between visits.

Next, the doctor may perform a pelvic exam, which not all patients require. During a pelvic exam, your doctor examine the external genital area as well as the cervix, vaginal walls, uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.

“During the pelvic exam, your doctor may perform a Pap smear,” Dr. Murray said. “This test consists of taking cells from the cervix to detect the presence of pre-cancerous or cancerous cells.”




Let’s talk about…sex

Based on the earlier discussion of your health and history, your doctor may recommend testing for sexually transmitted diseases. While the conversation about your sexual health may be uncomfortable, it’s important to be honest in order for your doctor to accurately assess any risks to your health.

One part of the discussion may be about human papillomavirus (HPV).

“In general, we recommend you receive the HPV vaccine starting as early as 9 – 11 years. But, if you haven’t yet received the vaccine, your doctor may recommend you receive it now if you are still under the age of 26. The vaccine is designed to protect against HPV infection and the health problems the HPV infection can cause,” Dr. Murray said.

Your routine GYN appointment is also an ideal time to bring up any questions you may have about birth control options.

“Anything you discuss with your gynecologist about birth control, sex, STDs, pregnancy or anything else is private and confidential. Ask any questions you may have about your reproductive health to learn what you can do to protect your health as you embark into a new phase of your life,” Dr. Murray advised.

Editor’s note: You can make an appointment for a free or low cost GYN exam at health centers across Pennsylvania.



Introducing SafeTeens Answers!, a more personal, engaging SafeTeens experience



Today’s a big day! Today, SafeTeens is joining with youth health advocates from across the state and the nation at Temple University’s third annual Adolescent Sexual Health Conference.

Today, we premier SafeTeens Answers!, the most significant development in Maternal and Family Health Services‘s thirteen-year-old SafeTeens Project since the website and phone hotline’s launch in 2002.

With SafeTeens Answers!, Pennsylvania teens, for the first time, can consult real, live health educators 24/7 — all over text. Our health educators (or “sexperts,” as we like to call them) are trained on a wide array of reproductive health topics, including anatomy, relationships, contraception and STDs.

Here are just some of the thing’s you can ask:

  • Can you get rid of an STD?
  • Does size matter?
  • Why are condoms flavored?
  • What happens if the condom breaks?
  • What birth control method is the most effective?


To ask a question, first text the keyword “SAFE” to 57890. Once opted in, ask a question anytime. A real, live health educator will respond within a few hours — or within 24 to 48 hours, if it’s a real head-scrater.

Why text? Today’s teens text upwards of sixty times per day. Grounding SafeTeens Answers! in a technology teens use all day (every day) ensures teens can access safe, reliable answers when they need them most.

“Too often, teens get reproductive health information from unreliable sources,” says project coordinator Nick Sufrinko. “SafeTeens Answers! provides a safer, more accurate way to seek information.”

MFHS President and CEO Bette Cox Saxton thanks the project’s funders. “Thanks to generous funding from the Anna Lalor Burdick Program of the Lalor Foundation,” Saxton said, “we’re bringing this valuable service to Pennsylvania teens.” She continues, “Teens, when armed with the safe, reliable information, are best equipped to make informed, healthy choices about their futures.”

Join us in welcoming the more personal, engaging SafeTeens experience by texting SAFE to 57890!



Health centers across Pennsylvania to begin offering free tattoos to teens and young adults


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGotcha! While you may not be able to get free tribals and sleeves at our health centers anytime soon, you can get free birth control, STD tests and more at our health centers — and that’s no joke.

That’s pretty awesome itself, because some birth control methods are over 99% effective. If you’re sexually active, birth control can help you delay pregnancy until you’re ready to have a child. That’s better than a free tat, amiright?

And unlike a tattoo that the whole world can see, no one has to know about your visit to a health center. If you don’t want anyone to know about your visit, tell us! We’ll make sure what happens in the health center, stays in the health center; absolutely no forms or letters will be mailed home.

So, what are you waiting for? Find a teen health center near you, and make a free, confidential appointment today! Oh, and Happy April Fools’ Day!




Hookah: Not all it’s puffed up to be


hookahWithin the last couple of years a new trend among high school and college students has been emerging: hookah. Often found in trendy “hookah lounges” with live music, hookahs are water pipes used to smoke flavored tobacco.

I have to admit, I was curious to see what all the hype is about. So mid-way through my senior year, a group of friends and I went to the local hookah lounge to see for ourselves. I told my mom where we were going she replied with a simple, “Have fun. Let me know how it is.”

I was shocked by her reaction. After all, it was only a few months prior that she raised heck after finding a pack of cigarettes in my purse. Why was she so against me smoking a cigarette, yet found it completely acceptable to inhale tobacco as long as it was flavored and with a group of friends?

The truth is, the idea of smoking hookah seems to be tied in with a lot of misconceptions. Perhaps my mother was as blind to these misconceptions as everyone else.

While hookah has been around for centuries, emerging from Persia and India, it only just became a hit in the U.S., fueled by the idea that hookah smoking is safer than cigarettes. In reality, inhaling tobacco from hookah has many of the same health risks as inhaling tobacco from a cigarette. In some cases, it can have even greater risks. In a one-hour hookah session, for example, you can inhale 200 times more smoke than you would from a single cigarette!

Of course, this smoke increases your rates of getting lung and oral cancers, heart disease and other serious illnesses.

In addition, hookah can also lead to the spread of infectious diseases. If hookah pipes aren’t cleaned as efficiently as they should be, germs, such as herpes, can be passed from one mouth to another. Kinda unreal!

Of course, if teens aren’t aware of these health risks, we aren’t going to see anything wrong hookah. And honestly there’s something exciting about spending a few hours with your friends smoking salted caramel tobacco in those trendy little lounges. Regardless, smoking hookah just isn’t safe.