North Carolina County Board of Health To Recommend School Board Alter Abstinence-Only Sex Education Policy
The Gaston County, N.C., Board of Health on Monday said that it will begin a campaign to lower teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted disease rates in the county, including opening a discussion with school board members about ways to include information on condoms and birth control in the county's sex education curriculum, the Charlotte Observer reports. Gaston County schools currently teach abstinence-only sex education that does not include information about condoms or birth control. The county's teen pregnancy rate of 76.5 pregnancies per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 19 is higher than the North Carolina state average of 69.3 pregnancies per 1,000 teens, according to the Observer. In addition, 641 Gaston County residents have been diagnosed with HIV since February 1986; about 30% of the people were infected during their teen years (Gregory, Charlotte Observer, 7/23).
Students Speak to Health Board
The board of health on Monday heard from five student members of the HIV Education Led By Peers group, who said that abstinence-only education does not do enough to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs among teens, according to the Associated Press. "These teenagers are having sex whether we tell them about abstinence or not," 17-year-old Angel Putnam, one of the students addressing the board, who became pregnant at age 15, said, adding, "These students need the information to make the individual decision about whether to have sex, to make a wiser decision" (Associated Press, 7/23). School board member Jim Davison said that the county sex education program needs to be "more extensive but age-appropriate," according to the Observer. School board Vice Chair Kevin Collier said that the abstinence-only policy should not be changed because he said that telling students about birth control and condoms could "sen[d] a message that it's OK to have sex," the Observer reports. The health board is not suggesting a specific sex education curriculum to the school board, which would have to recommend and approve any specific changes (Charlotte Observer, 7/23).