WILMINGTON -- Teaching kids about sexually transmitted diseases can be a touchy subject, but it's one that some state lawmakers feel needs to be taught.
The state Senate has recently approved a bill that mandates schools provide information on STDs, specifically the human papilloma virus, or HPV, a widespread virus that affects millions of women each year.
Registered nurse Barbara Coy said, "It's a chance to eliminate one cancer in our world."
Coy is urging young girls to get informed. Coy says last year alone Wilmington Health Access for Teens performed a little more than 950 pap smears. About one third of those tests came back abnormal, with signs of a potentially deadly virus called HPV.
She adds half of those people whose tests were abnormal knew nothing about HPV.
"They just don't know what it is," Coy said. "They don't know what to ask. They're not informed about it."
Currently there are about 70 different types of HPV with two strands of the virus that can cause cervical cancer. It's an STD that's running rampant across the country, with about 20 million people infected.
State lawmakers agree the information needs to get out there, especially to young girls.
The best way, they say, is through the classroom.
"Stepping Stones" instructor Laura Baxter said, "I think it's very important at least to get the information out there. Then, if they broach the subject with their parents, the parents can do more research."
A sexual education course called Stepping Stones at New Hanover County's Roland-Grise Middle School is teaching students the importance of prevention and protection against STDs, like HPV.
Teachers are also spreading the word about gardasil, a vaccine that's helping girls as young as nine years old prevent the virus and almost eliminate their chance of developing cervical cancer.
And it's already working.
"Probably about 30-45 percent of my girls have gotten the shot."
For more information on the HPV virus, cervical cancer, or how you can prevent it visit www.whatswhat.org or call 910.790.9949.