Friday, October 19, 2007

Contraceptives


School officials in Portland, Maine have decided to allow middle-school students to obtain birth control pills at the school health centers to promote safe sexual activity among students.

This comes just as California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a piece of legislation that would make the state support condom distribution in jails through The Inmate Community Public Health Act.

Both stories typically have two reactions: “good!” or a disturbed expression on the face. If the disturbed look emanates from the thought of either two 11-year-olds or two inmates having sex, then maybe the “good!” emanates from the same thought but with a placating vision of them wearing a condom or a girl on birth control.

Anne Squires is a family nurse practitioner at Eastern Senior High School, in Washington D.C., where she said at least 30 girls get pregnant every year. Over the six years that she has been at the school she has noticed that STDs and other reproductive concerns are one of the top reasons why students visit the clinic, which is only one of two in health clinics in the District located inside of a school.

"I think we have to be realistic," Squires said. "If [students] have made that choice then I feel it's my responsibility to help them make safe choices."

And according to the city of Portland, students as young as 11-years-old are making the choice to have sex. The Washington Post reported that Portland’s three middle schools had seven pregnancies in the last five years (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/18/AR2007101800358_2.html).

The government could actually prevent that, according to Richard Urban says. Urban is the co-founder and executive director of Ultra Teen Choice, (http://www.ultrateenchoice.org/Index.html) a Washington D.C. teen peer-counseling program.

He believes that abstinence should be the standard for the youth and questions why the government doesn't fund more "serious" tracks to help youth stay abstinent. He disagrees with the promotion of condoms to encourage safe sex.

Urban said that according to statistics, the majority, 52 percent, of youth in D.C. have never had sex.

“That's down 16 percent in two years and that's not because they're handing out condoms. These are kids who are saying, 'I've never had sex.'"

Students in his program, as young as 12, have pledged chastity vows and every year they hold Abstinence Awareness Week where they charge the city to promote abstinence as a way to curb HIV/AIDS, STDs and other health dangers to D.C.'s youth.

With African-American women being the most common victim in the U.S. to be infected with HIV/AIDS, the Congressional Black Caucus is pushing for legislation to supply condoms in jails as their way of quelling health dangers in the African-American community. The Stop AIDS in Prison Act is spearheaded by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Ca). This goes against certain laws in most jails that ban sexual activity among inmates.

According to a 2003 study released last year by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1.8 percent of men and 2.6 percent of women in federal and state prisons have been diagnosed with HIV. The rate of AIDS infection in federal and state prisons is .51 percent versus .15 percent in the overall population.

-Vanessa Mizell

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