Updated 07/25/2012 11:04 PM
Progress to curb teens' risky sexual behaviors stalled
Efforts to combat the spread of teen pregnancy, HIV and other STDs among teenagers have stalled. That's what health care professionals are saying in response to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 10,000 high school students from all 50 states completed the anonymous survey about a variety of risky behaviors. As our Katie Gibas reports, after huge improvements in the 1990s, there was almost no change in the 2000s.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Just under half of all high school students are having sex. Fifteen percent of those have four or more partners. But only 60 percent are using condoms.
"That's sort of the ABCs of sexuality: Abstinence is recommended. Secondly, be faithful or minimize your number of partners. And third, use a condom. It's very, very important. Especially for Chlamydia ,which there's a high rate of in Syracuse," said Dr. Karen Teelin, an Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital Pediatrician, who specializes in adolescent medicine.
Those are the results of the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health care professionals are concerned that progress fighting those behaviors appears to be hitting a wall. Forty percent of all new HIV Cases are in people under the age of 30 and one in 20 girls will conceive before they reach 20 years old.
"Not enough progress is being made. But we're stable. We're not losing ground. But we really haven't made a lot of progress over the last decade," said Teelin
Health care experts say two possible explanations for the lack of progress in the last decade are complacency and abstinence-only education.
"There's been a push for abstinence only programs. And there's never been any evidence that they work. And there's been a lot of evidence that they don't work. It's such a complex problem of teen sexuality and teen pregnancy. It's an economic problem, a social problem and issue of education and a medical problem. There are a lot of efforts being made but a lot of children aren't being reached," said Teelin.
But there isn't one easy solution. Experts say access to contraception and better education from both schools and parents are key to continued progress.
"The most important place for education to happen is with the parent in the home. It's really important that the adolescents get to express their thoughts and say what's on their mind in a non-judgmental environment, where they can really ask the questions and say all the crazy stuff that they're thinking and that they've heard and air that and feel that they're listened to and that their concerns are addressed," said Teelin.
Experts say the best way to make progress is through renewing the commitment to the issues surrounding teen sexuality.