NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — One in four adolescents is likely to acquire a sexually transmitted disease, according to the first ever Youth Sexual Health Plan released by New York State.
As CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock reported, the state has launched a controversial plan to tackle sex education among youth.
The state Department of Health said some 60 percent of high school students in New York state reported they’d had sex by their senior year of high school, and more than 25 percent by their freshman year of high school.
More than one in 10 students said they did not use any method to protect against pregnancy using their last experience of sexual intercourse, while only 7.2 percent of sexually active students used a condom as well as another birth control method, the state said.
This was part of the reasoning behind the release of the first ever Youth Sexual Health Plan, a 22-page document defining “sexual health” as “a state of well‐being in relation to sexuality across the life span that involves physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual dimensions.”
Among the main objectives of the document are promoting the continuity of sexual education across the state, reducing the rate of HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and reducing unintended teen pregnancies.
“Anything is possible once you start engaging,” said Nina Barba of the Upper West Side.
The statistics surrounding STDs in youth from 2012 were scary. Those between the ages of 15 and 24 accounted for 63 percent of reported STDs.
For newly diagnosed cases of HIV, one in five cases affected individuals under 25.
To reduce the rate of HIV, the state suggested mandatory offerings of HIV testing to all persons 13 or older. Some argued that 13 might be a young age for such worries.
“Thirteen might be, you know, a little young for that, but sadly not by much,” said Jeffrey Ernstoff of the Upper West Side.
Father of three Joshua Stillman agreed.
“I work around teenagers and the vast majority of them at 13, when I ask them if they’re sexually active, look at me like, ‘Are you crazy?’” said Stillman, of the Upper West Side. “And to put HIV testing on the plate in front of them, I think, would be not only weird for them, but probably make them think about something that’s not anywhere close to their consciousness.”
But for Ricardo Lopez of the South Bronx, who has a 14-year-old son, it is better to be tested and treated.
“Nowadays the way this youth is growing up, I agree with it,” he said.
The plan also suggests starting sex education in elementary school – for interested districts. Some parents agreed early education is warranted.
“You can’t go wrong with too much education,” said Amanda LaPergola of Astoria, Queens. “I think ignorance is not the answer in this case.”
“Somewhat sadly, I think the age for it seems to be getting lower and lower,” added Ernstoff.
A total of 3,693 babies were born to New York girls 17 or younger in 2012 alone. The plan aims to reduce this number too by promoting family planning, providing emergency contraception to youth 15 and older, and training youth to become peer educators.
Acting New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said protecting adolescents’ health and preparing them for responsible decision-making is a public health priority.
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