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West Palm Beach, Florida – This week, the Healthy Teens Campaign and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), released a report outlining the status of sexual health and sex education in Florida. The report, Sex Education in the Sunshine State: How Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs Are Keeping Florida’s Youth in the Dark, found that young people in Florida are currently experiencing some of the worst sexual health outcomes in the country and yet, are also subjected to ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs more than youth in any other state with the exception of Texas.

In 2006, Florida ranked 5th in new reported cases of HIV and 2nd in new reported cases of AIDS. Young people are increasingly impacted by the high rate of HIV infection. In 2007, persons under the age of 25 accounted for 15 percent of new HIV infections in the state. Adolescent pregnancy and childbearing are also major health concerns in Florida. The state’s teen pregnancy rate is the 6th highest in the nation. Florida’s teen birth rate also increased in 2006 for the first time in 15 years and is 3 percent higher than the national average.

“Many abstinence-only-until-marriage programs provide inaccurate and outdated information, reinforce gender stereotypes, and rely on fear and shame-based tactics to discourage sexual activity. This is unacceptable in Florida,” said Lillian A. Tamayo, Healthy Teens Campaign member and President/CEO of Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast. “By continuing to accept federal funding for ineffective abstinence-only programs, and failing to support and expand comprehensive sex education, Florida is putting the health and well being of its young people at risk.” Florida received $13,101,054 in federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding for Fiscal Year 2008. This is the second highest amount of federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding for all states and territories. There are 32 entities in Florida that provide abstinence-only-until-marriage programs throughout the state, including faith-based groups, crisis pregnancy centers and the extreme right-wing. While a 2007 study commissioned by the federal government showed that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are ineffective, many of these national, harmful programs have established themselves in Florida. These programs have many flaws including withholding basic information about how effective condoms can be, promoting heterosexual marriage as the only acceptable lifestyle, fostering discriminating gender myths, relying on messages of fear and shame, and providing outdated materials. The
report released today takes an in depth look at the way these programs affect Florida youth.

“As a state, we cannot continue to deny Florida teens the education and information that is necessary for them to make healthy and safe life decisions as they grow older,” added Tamayo. “Our Legislature and Governor have the opportunity to ensure that all teens have the tools to protect themselves and make responsible decisions. It’s time to pass the Healthy Teens Act and reject ineffective abstinence-only funding.”The Healthy Teens Act (SB 220 by Sen. Deutch (D-30) and HB 265 by Rep. Fitzgerald (D-69)) requires Florida public schools that already teach information about sexually transmitted infections, family planning, and pregnancy to provide medically-accurate and comprehensive sex education – including facts about abstinence and methods of preventing unintended pregnancy and the spread of diseases.

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Healthy Teens Campaign is a broad-based group of over 80 public health, faith-based, education, and medical organizations working together to advocate for comprehensive sex education in Florida public schools to improve the health and safety of Florida teens.

The mission of Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast is to provide comprehensive sexual health care through the provision of clinical services, education and advocacy. We do so by understanding and responding to the needs of those seeking our services, and by protecting and respecting the essential privacy rights, dignity and culture of each individual.
www.ppsoflo.org