This Illustrated Book For Adults Is The Sex Ed You Should've Had

by Emma McGowan

STDs are on the rise in the United States in a major way. In fact, they’re at an all-time high: According to the CDC, 2016 had the highest number of reported STDs ever. Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 made up the majority of cases, but the CDC found that every age group is affected. And the one leading the charge was chlamydia, with 1,598,354 reported cases. In comparison, the next most common one was gonorrhea, with 468,514 reported cases.

When Jackie Prince and Liesje Kraai (who is Bustle's Motion Graphic Designer) heard those numbers, they were shocked. How could a treatable and totally preventable thing be running so rampant? Clearly there’s a gap somewhere — people either aren’t getting the information they need to have safer sex or they aren’t putting it into action. But instead of just throwing their hands up in despair, they decided to write a book about it. Specifically, a book about a koala named Chloe, who has chlamydia, called Chloe Has Chlamydia.

“We were really taken aback that something so preventable, and in many cases treatable, had reached such high levels and wanted to do something about it,” Kraai tells Bustle. “We had a look around at the sex ed landscape — both for teens and adults — and saw a gap in information that was both appealing and had staying power. Not to say there aren't some innovative approaches and organizations out there — there are! But we felt there was a need for a fun, fresh take on STD awareness.”

Chloe’s story is a classic coming of age tale, with a furry twist. She leaves home to start her own life and family, and “prepares for mating season by munching leaves, ‘sleeping it off’, and brushing up on slow jams,” according to the Chloe Has Chlamydia Kickstarter page. However, in her exploration she contracts chlamydia, which might affect her ability to have babies, because chlamydia left untreated can lead to infertility. Instead of hiding in shame, however, Chloe makes it her mission to spread the word about safer sex, finds a higher calling, and “realizes that growing up is about more than she thought.” The humans reading along, of course, come to a similar conclusion.

So why a koala? Turns out, humans aren’t the only animals facing soaring chlamydia rates. Between 50 and 100 percent of koalas in Australia are infected with chlamydia. The population has been reduced by one third in the past 20 years because of the disease, which was probably introduced via livestock from Europe. Scientists are currently working on a vaccine for koala chlamydia which, if successful, might even contribute to research about a human vaccine. Also, Kraai says, “koalas are cute!”

“We wanted to make something that would open the conversation in a non-judgmental way with a character that's relatable, lovable, and hopefully modern,” Kraai tells Bustle. “A key factor behind the ongoing increase of STDs across the U.S. is lack of awareness and education. Creating Chloe and her world felt like a great way to make the conversation about STDs more approachable.”

In order to finish their book and bring it to production, Kraai and Prince are running a Kickstarter campaign to raise $15,000. They hope that it will be the first in a series of books in their planned Animals for Adults series, which will include DeeDee is Depressed, Angus is Addicted, and Billy Can’t Get a Boner. They’re offering prizes ranging from digital and hardcover versions of the book to a “koala picnic in the park.” Check it out if you’re looking for an accessible, fun, and different approach to sex education — and, honestly, who isn’t?