New York Times Examines Effects of Sex Education, AIDS Awareness on Teen Sex, Birth Rate
The New York Times on Tuesday examined the debate over which educational factors may be responsible for a decline in teenage birth rate and the number of teens who have had sex. The CDC last week released its annual birth statistics data, which showed that the teen birth rate had declined 30% over 10 years to an "historic low" of 43 births per 1,000 teen girls. In addition, the agency's Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed the percentage of high school students who have had sexual contact at all fell from 51% in 1991 to 43% in 2001 for girls and from 57% in 1991 to 48% in 2001 for boys. Although experts agree that sex education is responsible for the decline, they continue to debate which type of education can be credited with the success -- abstinence-only or comprehensive sex education. The declines are "evidence that teenagers across the country are embracing the idea of abstinence until marriage," Leslee Unruh, president and founder of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, said. However, others attribute the declining teen pregnancy rate to "a combination of less sex and more contraception," Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said. In addition, AIDS awareness campaigns have helped to reduce the teen pregnancy rate, especially among blacks, who have the highest rates of HIV/AIDS, according to the Times. "Our community has had to become more forthright and willing to discuss sexual issues, because we have been so hard hit by AIDS," Bronwyn Mayden, executive director of Campaign for Our Children in Baltimore, said, adding, "Black kids know the stats, they have seen what's happening in the community, and they are scared" (Villarosa, New York Times, 12/23).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.