Abstinence and precautions by sexually active youths decrease pregnancy rate nationwide
Nationwide statistics, gathered by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in a New York Times article, show that teens are engaging in less sex and using more protection, resulting in the lowest pregnancy rate ever recorded in the U.S. The trend is in part due to efforts like MCPS' recently approved pilot program pushed for by a Blair teacher.
According to a March 22 Board of Education (BOE) resolution, a video demonstrating proper uses of contraception is to be piloted in three MCPS schools, Blair, Blake and Northwest. The approval is largely due to the efforts of health teacher Susan Soulé, who created a county petition for the video, drew up a lesson plan, made a demonstration video and testified to the BOE in support of the video.
Research findings showed that among sexually active teenagers, condom use has soared to 65 percent overall and nearly 73 percent among black male students.
Soulé views the approval of the video as a "positive" step toward educating students about contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). "I believe kids have a right to learn how to be responsible. It's not like, ‘Ooh! Have sex!' It's for protection of STDs," she said.
Sophomore Valerie Fomengia thinks health classes will be more effective once informational videos are shown to students. Though her health class "touched on STDs and a little on abstinence," Fomengia sought to satisfy her curiosity in a group called Becoming A Responsible Teen (BART): Heart to Hand. The group transformed her entire outlook on teen sex. "I just stopped doing anything that could give me even the risk of getting pregnant or catching an STD. I just avoid the situation now," she said.
Soulé is convinced that increased awareness among teenagers will help "the fastest-growing age group with rates of STDs." "The only way to stop it is education," she said.
Kimberly Halman of the Silver Spring YMCA Youth Services Center believes communication about sex makes the issue less intimidating. "It helps with sex not being quite as taboo," she said.
The Silver Spring YMCA Youth Services Center is one of the many programs that educate adolescents about sex. It also provides guidance to teen mothers and pregnant students during a weekly support group at Blair.
Counselor Charlain Bailey, a representative for the group from the counseling department, coordinates with Mazine Lofton, the school nurse, in helping teen mothers with their concerns regarding health issues for them and their babies, academic difficulties and time-management strategies, according to Bailey.
Junior Suzanne Adjogah agrees with Halman. She said young females are simply more comfortable with talking about sex today. "I don't know if that's because sex is more accepted these days, but it makes it easier because it no longer has to be secret," said Adjogah.
There has been a 35 percent decline in birth rates among 15 to 17-year-olds in the U.S., according to a New York Times article.
The article cited experts who attributed this change in teen culture to the rise of more religious and conservative youth programs, the introduction to various forms of birth control and education on sexually transmitted diseases.
The statistics also show that more than half of all male high school students reported in 2001 that they were virgins, up from 39 percent for the same group in 1990. Blacks of both sexes between 15 and 17 showed the steepest decrease in sexual intercourse: a 28 percent decline from 1991 to 2001, according to the CDC analysis of several studies.
Sophomore Monique Eldridge is among the teens who contribute to such statistics. She stated that she has chosen to stay a virgin until she gets married for religious and personal reasons. "My first reason for staying a virgin is that I come from a very religious family, and having sex before getting married is a very strong sin in the Bible. My second reason is more like respect," said Eldridge.
Eldridge also attends the weekly meetings at BART and said the program "definitely" helps her stand by her decision. "Why would I even think about doing that when I know the consequences after seeing all the tapes?" she asked.
Despite promising statistics, some experts believe there is still room for improvement. Certified Physician Assistant Doneby Smith of the Cameron Medical Group said, "It's better than it was ten years ago but not yet on the safe-sex level I'd like to see."
Simona Danilovska. Simona Danilovska is a junior at Blair high school and a page editor for Chips, (a.k.a. the best newspaper in the world.) She was born on March 8, which makes her proud to be a Pisces =). Her favorite activities consist of checking her horoscope … More »