As students and educators settle back into the school year, Planned Parenthood VOX chapters at the University at Albany and RPI will join hundreds of other students across the country who are participating in a National Sex Ed Week of Action. This week, from September 26 through September 30, the local students, with support from Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood, will staff tables, distribute safer sex kits, talk about healthy sexuality and promote the importance of comprehensive sex education. Both campus groups will feature screenings of a new film, "Let's Talk About Sex" that contrasts approaches to sex education in the U.S. and the Netherlands .
"We know from our own experiences that most students don't get adequate sex education in high school, said Brittni Gulotty, President of University at Albany VOX. "Some students only received abstinence-only education, while others received very minimal information about birth control or STDs. But studies show that abstinence-only education does not work, while comprehensive sex education helps reduce teen pregnancies(1) , and results in young people delaying the first time they have sex(2)."
Right now, New York State along with most other states, has no requirement for comprehensive sex education. In fact, only nine states and the District of Columbia require that sex education programs in middle school or high school include teaching about birth control. Only 20 states and the District of Columbia require any type of sex education at all. New York State's only current requirement is for education around HIV/AIDS to be provided as part of the high school health education curricula (3).
"Students often get their information about sex from a variety of different sources, including their friends, older siblings, the internet, magazines and television," said Alexa Previto, a member of the University at Albany VOX. "But too much of the time the information is either incorrect or misleading. That's why it is extremely important that during this week we put a special focus on ensuring that every young person has access to accurate and comprehensive sex education."
Both VOX groups plan to show the film "Let's talk about Sex," directed by James Houston, an Australian, who contrasts the approach to sex education in the United States and the Netherlands. ((http://www.letstalkaboutsexthefilm.com/about.html) "When we saw the film," explained Previto, "we thought it made very clear how in the United States, people look down on sex as an immoral act that should be shunned or at least not discussed, while in the Netherlands, sex is viewed as a natural part of life that should be approached with excitement, but also with responsibility. The difference in attitudes directly relate to how teenagers behave when it comes to making decisions regarding sex, and whether or not they will take steps to protect themselves."
It is clear that there is a need for more comprehensive sex education. Every year, nearly 750,000 American teens become pregnant (4) and one in four teen girls has an STD (5).
As the result of legislation passed and signed in 2010, Congress and President Obama created PREP, the Personal Responsibility Education Program, which dedicated $75 million a year in funding, including $55 million a year to states to fund comprehensive sex education programs for the first time ever. UHPP received a grant from the New York State Health Department, made possible by PREP funds, to support its teen pregnancy prevention work with high school students in the cities of Albany and Hudson.
"PREP is the first ever federal funding program dedicated to medically accurate, comprehensive sex education," said UHPP Educator and Senior Vice President for External Affairs Rob Curry, and it was a very important action to address the health of our nation's youth. Still, there is obviously a great deal of work that needs to be done to better educate young people about sex and sexual health. We need to ensure that all young people have access to comprehensive sex education."
Comprehensive sex education enjoys broad public support. Numerous medical and scientific organizations support comprehensive sex education, including the American Public Health Association, the American Medical Association, the Society for Adolescent Medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. A majority of voters show wide-ranging support in nearly every demographic category, including Republicans, Democrats and independents, as well as Roman Catholics and Evangelical Christians.
(4) Guttmacher Institute. (2010). U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State Trends and Trends by Race and Ethnicity. New York: Guttmacher Institute.
(5) Forhan, Sara E., et al. (2009). "Prevalence of Sexually Transmitted Infections Among Female Adolescents Aged 14 to 19 in the United States." Pediatrics, 124 (6), 1505-1512.
January 30, 2014
April 11, 2016