The CDC writes in the article HIV Among Youth in US that, "one in four new HIV infections occur in youth ages 13-24 and about 12,000 youth in 2010 or about 1,000 per month were infected with HIV" ("HIV"). These are staggering finds and with all the available information about HIV and how to protect oneself against this fatal illness, why are these numbers so high? In many schools, students are exposed to an abstinence-only sex education. While abstinence is key in preventing unwanted pregnancy and disease, there are still young people who participate in sexual activity. Schools should teach comprehensive sexual education including information on contraceptive use, sexually transmitted disease/infections in addition to abstinence, to teach sexual responsibility in all stages of a youth’s life.
Comprehensive sexual education is much more than using condoms and learning about birth control. Planned Parenthood recommends on their website that a comprehensive sex education is one that starts in kindergarten and goes until twelfth grade. The information is made for the student’s age group and is based on facts and science. Some of the topics in a comprehensive sex education program are the biology of sexuality, relationships, information and prevention about disease, topics about self-image, and perhaps orientation and pleasure (Planned Parenthood). With this program, students will learn ways to protect their bodies from harm and will learn how to deal with sexual pressures. An abstinence-only education has only one message: no sex until marriage. This program neglects the fact that there are many people who have pre-marital sexual relations or has an alternative lifestyle. Thus, many students are not educated in how to protect themselves in the real world.
Furthermore, comprehensive sex education programs work to decrease unwanted pregnancy. In schools or communities where there is comprehensive sex education, Advocates for Youth, compiled research that states, "The National Survey of Family Growth determined the impact of sexuality education on youth risk taking for young people ages 15-19 and found teens 50% less likely to experience pregnancy than those who received abstinence-only education" (Advocates for Youth). These programs give a young woman the knowledge about birth control to lead a sexually active and responsible life without becoming pregnant at an early age. In March 2013, the CDC declared in "Reducing Teen Pregnancy in the United States" that teen births are at the lowest point in 70 years and state, "prevention of teen pregnancy requires broad-based efforts including evidence-based sexual health education" ("Pregnancy"). Teen pregnancy affects everyone because; it increases the need for public assistance for health care and other federal aid programs. Also, lower teen pregnancy rates also might mean a lower abortion rate. Students in an abstinence-only program do not learn anything about available birth control options. While some people may not believe in contraceptive uses, it is better to prevent the pregnancy than to abort it. Young women in a comprehensive sexual education program will learn the best methods of birth control and make the right choice for them.
Not only does a comprehensive sex education program help reduce teen pregnancy, it also gives scientific information on prevention that decreases the chances for the youth becoming infected with sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, which is fatal. A comprehensive sex education program teaches about the effectiveness of condoms and how to properly use a condom. Brigid McKeon, a writer for the organization Advocates for Youth claims students enrolled in a comprehensive sex education program have lower infection rates than those enrolled in an abstinence-only sex education program ("Effective"). Teens who choose to have sexual relations will be better prepared to have safe sex thus lowering their chances for becoming infected with a sexually transmitted disease. Another writer for Advocates for Youth, Sue Alford writes in "Science and Success, Second Edition: Sex Education and Other Programs That Prevent Teen Pregnancy, HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections" that several comprehensive sexual education programs showed significant decreases in sexually transmitted infections (2-3).
Conversely, there are many people who believe a comprehensive sex education curriculum actually encourages young people to have sexual relations. Christine Kim, policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation and Robert Rector, research fellow at the Heritage Foundation state in "The Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Curriculum is Effective" that sexually active teens hurt not just themselves their but society as a whole and programs that teach abstinence only are much more effective in preventing teen birth and infection ("Abstinence" np). While no expert disagrees that abstinence is the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and disease, the information provided in a comprehensive sex education program gives the students the knowledge to maturely deal with sex. According to research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute and Columbia University, it states that "95% Americans had sex before marriage" (Boonstra, np). Any man or woman who decide to have sex for the first time are faced with choices and with a comprehensive sex education, he or she will know to use either condoms, birth control, or use both. In addition, a man and a woman who are married to each other may not want children right away, he or she should know what is available to them.
When comprehensive sexual education is taught in schools, it does help lower teen pregnancy, help lower infection rates among teens and help teens make safer sexual health choices. Nurse practitioner Margaret Tonelli, states in Time for Comprehensive Sex Education, that "research has shown that providing information does not increase sexual behaviors but it reduces unwanted pregnancy, and it delays sexual inanition and prevents STI’s" (57). A comprehensive sexual education program, in conjunction with teaching abstinence, creates responsible and mature teens and adults. It will give future youth the information on birth control and proper condom use to protect themselves from disease and unwanted pregnancy should they choose to have sexual relations. Some teens will have sex early, some will wait until later, some will wait until they are married, but the information provided in a comprehensive sexual education program will guide them through their adult lives to make good sexual choices.
Alford, Sue, MLS. "Science and Success, Second Edition: Sex Education and Other Programs That Work to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, HIV, and Sexually Transmitted Infections." Advocatesfor youth.org. Advocates for Youth (2008): 2-3. Web PDF. 11 Feb. 2014.
Boonstra, Heather D. "The Case for a New Approach to Sex Education Mounts; Will Policy Makers Heed the Message?" Guttmacher Policy Review, Guttmacher Institute.10.2 (Spring 2007): n.pag. Web PDF. 11 Feb. 2014.
CDC. "HIV Among Youth in the US." CDC Vital Signs. CDC. Nov. 2012 Web. 01 Feb. 2014.
CDC. " Reducing Teen Pregnancy in the United States." Public Health Grand Rounds. CDC. 19 Mar. 2013. Web. 1 Feb. 2014.
Kim, Christine, and Robert Rector. "The Abstinence-Only Sex Education Curriculum Is Effective." Are Textbooks Biased? Ed. Noah Berlatsky. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2012. At Issue. Rpt. from "Evidence on the Effectiveness of Abstinence Education: An Update." Heritage Foundation. 2010. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 1 Feb. 2014.
McKeon, Brigid. "Effective Sex Education." Advocates for Youth. Advocates for Youth. 2006. Web. 01. Feb. 2014.
Planned Parenthood. "Implementing Sex Education." Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood, n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2014.
Tonelli, Margaret, MSN AP. "Time for Comprehensive Sex Education." Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology 22.1 (2009): 57. Summons. Web. 1 Feb. 2014.