By Valerie Huber, Executive Director, National Abstinence Education Association
The sex education mandate in New York City repeats the same approach flaunted since the 1970s. Simply put, it goes something like this: “We’ve got a problem with teen pregnancy, but instead of any meaningful emphasis on restraint and sexual delay, let’s make sure teens have ready access to contraception.” One would think that the contraceptive-centered approach would effectively lead to a decrease in pregnancies and STD infections, but the numbers don’t treat this approach favorably. Nationwide, teen condom usage has dramatically risen since 1991[i] (the first year the CDC began tracking it), yet STD rates for teens have skyrocketed during this same time period. In fact, the chlamydia and gonorrhea rates among teens are four times that of the rest of the population.[ii] Teens are told that sex plus a condom equals “safe sex,” but science tells another story. Two of the most infectious sexually transmitted infections, HPV and Herpes (HSV) can be easily transmitted even with the use of a condom. [iii] This is because both STDs can be passed from partner to partner through skin-to-skin contact, including skin not normally covered by a condom. Teens need to receive all the information they need to make the healthiest decisions, which insists that they also be told that while condoms might reduce their risk for contracting STDs or becoming pregnant, condoms will not prevent or eliminate the risk. Only sexual risk avoidance education will adequately equip teens with the skills they need to avoid sexual risk and successfully navigate through the possible consequences of teen sex. So why would Mayor Bloomberg censor this important information for teens? Nationwide, the National Center for Health Statistics reveals that 68% of boys and 67% of girls between the ages of 15 and 17 have never had sexual intercourse. [iv] And these trends are continuing to move in the right direction. Why, then would we not want to encourage these healthy decisions and positive trends by providing genuine sexual risk avoidance education that is an intrinsic part of abstinence-centered programming? The mayor can (and must) make a policy correction. Abstinence-centered education must be permitted in New York City. It’s what’s best for NYC youth.
[i] Centers for Disease Control (2011). Trends in the prevalence of sexual behaviors: National YRBS: 1991-2009. Atlanta: CDC. Accessed August 28, 2011 at http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/yrbs/pdf/us_sexual_trend_yrbs.pdf
[ii] Centers for Disease Control (2011). STD rates by age. Atlanta: CDC. Accessed on Aug 28, 2011 from http://www.cdc.gov/std/health-disparities/age.htm
[iii] Centers for Disease Control ( 2010) Genital Herpes – CDC fact sheet. Atlanta: CDC. Accessed Aug 28, 2011 at http://www.cdc.gov/std/Herpes/STDFact-Herpes.htm
Centers for Disease Control (2011) Genital HPV infection – Fact sheet. Atlanta: CDC. Accessed Aug 28, 2011 at http://www.cdc.gov/std/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm