Mississippians have been riding the "abstinence-only" train right into some of the worst sexual health statistics in the nation.
In a country where 40 percent of all babies born last year were born to single mothers, Mississippi has the highest teen birth rate, at nearly 70 births per 1,000 teens. We also have the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrheasexually transmitted diseasesand 39 percent of new AIDS cases in Mississippi are in young people under age 35. Some 8,500 Mississippians live with HIV/AIDS today, with more than 3,400 of those in the Jackson area. HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects minorities; African Americans account for 75 percent of new cases in the state.
The numbers provide compelling evidence that our ideological approaches to sexual health have not been effective, confirming what numerous reports and health professionals have been saying for years. As taxpayers, Mississippians should think carefully about the efficacy of continuing to throw our money down the same drain expecting a different outcome.
It's time to try a different strategy. This year, Mississippi legislators have introduced four bills in the Mississippi House and Senate in an effort to get those numbers under control.
HB 234 proposes a comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate sex-education pilot program for public schools. The bill does not exclude teaching young people about the benefits of abstinence, but it includes providing information about the pros and cons of contraception, disease and parenting.
HB 763 provides for a $7 million appropriation to the Department of Heath for HIV/AIDS education, prevention and treatment programs. HB 764/SB 2519 are bills appropriating $6 million to establish STD/HIV specialty clinics in underserved areas of the state, which includes providing HIV antiretroviral medications to those who can't afford them. The clinics would also provide science-based STD/HIV prevention education.
Children having children and STDs, especially HIV/AIDS, represent a substantial burden to all Americans, sapping our mental, physical and fiscal well being. We spend billions because of these problems, while we've been unwilling to appropriate adequate funds toward effective prevention and treatment.
Mississippians have been hiding our collective heads in the sand when it comes to sexual issues, and it's time to shine some light and clear our eyes. When it comes to preventing teen pregnancy and STDs, ignorance is the battleground, and accurate knowledge our weapon.
We support the efforts of the Legislature to bring sexual health issues to the forefront and back into the scientific realm. Contact your state representatives and senators to let them know you want science-based, medically accurate sex-education programs in Mississippi and that you support the bills in the Legislature that promote those goals.
Abstinence requires a powerful personal moral commitment and religious foundation to be successful. Most children (and most adults for that matter) lack the moral clarity needed to withstand the enormous societal and peer pressure to have premarital/extramarital sex.
Public schools cannot instill religious values in children (parents and their churches can to an extent) which in part is why abstinence-only education is a failure.
- Jeff Lucas
Have you seen the statistics on young women who pledge themselves virgins in the company of their dads at dinner dances - I think they are called purity balls? I know I read it and you'll probably make me find it, but I do recall the stats were this - young women who participated in the purity balls had much the same incidence of teenage pregnancy and even higher rates of STDs than their non-pledged counterparts.
So, Jeff, I think you are missing the point to some extent. It's true, young people need guidance and support, but they also REALLY need to be taught biology - to know truly their risks.
Part of instilling values in young adults is giving them FACTUAL INFORMATION about diseases and pregnancy. I know from my personal history that learning the true facts made me much more careful and aware. I learned in school how easily pregnancy can happen, even with birth control, at any time of the month, etc. Scared the hell out of me! In a good way, I mean. Otherwise, kids will spread rumors like "you can't get pregnant if he pulls out" and crap like that. Do you really want your child learning the wrong facts on an issue so important as this? I don't.
[quote]Have you seen the statistics on young women who pledge themselves virgins in the company of their dads at dinner dances - I think they are called purity balls? I know I read it and you'll probably make me find it, but I do recall the stats were this - young women who participated in the purity balls had much the same incidence of teenage pregnancy and even higher rates of STDs than their non-pledged counterparts. [/quote]
I am aware of this study. And the results are really no surprise, given our society that sends mixed messages about the pleasures and risks of sexual promiscuity. And the last thing any kid really wants to be at that age is radically different from the majority of their peers, including being the last virgin on the block. IT CAN BE DONE but it is very, very difficult and most kids lack the moral commitment and maturity to resist the temptation.
[quote]So, Jeff, I think you are missing the point to some extent. It's true, young people need guidance and support, but they also REALLY need to be taught biology - to know truly their risks. [/quote]
No, I am not. I do not oppose sex education, I lament the fact that it has to be taught in a classroom instead of the privacy of home where it belongs. But I would much rather it be taught by someone educated on the subject who can present it in a comprehensive, factual manner than by 'urban legend'.
- Jeff Lucas
With 2 teenage daughters the topic of teen pregancy has come up often here. They both know first hand through relatives about the difficulties of teen pregnancies. I have no problems with sex-ed being taught in schools and I think we have done well teaching them also, to quote my 13 year old daughter who talking about one of her classmates that thought she was pregnant "I'm sorry for saying this Daddy, but she was a dumba$$ for having sex in the first place, she's way to young" I had to just smile and say "yeap your right".
CDC website has surveys for teen sexual behaviors from 1993 to 2007 in Mississippi, Mississippi teens are having less sex now according to the surveys.
Ever had sex is down from 69% to 59.9%
Had sex before 13 is down 18.6% to 13.7%
Currently sexually active is down 50.45 to 42.3%
Condom use is up 55.7% to 67.2%
Girls on birth control is down 24.2% to 19.5%
Taught about HIV and AIDS in schools is up 77.1% to 80.6% but down from high of 86.3 in 2003
While the birth rate per 1000 is the highest in the country at 70 it's down from 103 in 1997 it was 10th highest then.
The District of Columbia was a whopping 229.6 per 1000 in 1997 I could not find what it is there now.
Wonder what they did to be less than Miss. now?