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Patriot Expressions

The Importance of Sexual Education

Photo taken from Pixaby under CCL

Photo taken from Pixaby under CCL

Sarah Parker, Reporter

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All across America, or maybe just in the movies, teenagers are told by some coach in a tracksuit that if they have intercourse before marriage, they will die. Realistically, this is not the case.

According to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015, more than 41 percent of teens across the U.S. have had sexual intercourse. Of those 41 percent, 43 percent did not use a condom, and 14 percent did not use any method to prevent pregnancy.

Walk into any school in the district, and students will not learn anything about this data. In Arkansas, schools are not required to provide students with a sexual education course; however, local school boards can decide whether or not to include the material into the curriculum.

If a school does decide to teach the subject, then abstinence (the act or practice of restraining oneself from indulging in something, in this case, sex) is stressed as the only way to completely protect against unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS. 30 percent of schools that teach sex ed only teach abstinence.

Although sex education is not required in Arkansas, it is required that schools provide a course that covers STIs and HIV/AIDS in some manner; currently, Marion incorporates this material into their required one semester health class that also emphasizes healthy living.

America is one of the highest ranking countries for STIs and teen pregnancies. Arkansas falls in the top 10 of highest STI rates nationwide and is also number four in the nation for the most teen pregnancies. While the national rates are declining, the rates of teenage pregnancies in the south are on the rise. According to the CDC, half of nearly 20 million new cases of STIs reported each year are people between the ages 15 to 25.

When someone has unprotected sex, they are at a risk for catching an STI or becoming pregnant. There are approximately 20 different infections that can be transmitted through unprotected intercourse. Although there are methods used to treat the diseases, often there is no cure. Some of the infections, including AIDS, could lead to death, which is why it is crucial for students to become aware of these statistics.

Most STIs are treatable if managed properly, which means getting tested preventively or making sure your partner has a clean bill of health. If a student thinks they might have come in contact with a disease, they should see a doctor immediately to get the right treatment plan.

If a student finds herself pregnant, there is help for first-time moms in the community. A nationwide program, Nurse-Family Partnership, has local help available for first-time mothers less than 28 weeks pregnant. The target clientele for this program are women under 28 weeks so that they can receive prenatal care and increased developmental outcomes. They will receive care and support all the way up until the child is two.

The program is referral based, meaning you need a referral from a doctor, health department or a school nurse. Their help ranges from a mother who is trying to get her driver’s license, to helping a mother get enrolled in school. The last thing they want is for a young mother to sacrifice her education. No one has to worry about not being able to afford it because the program is free thanks to a federal grant, although participants must have a low income to qualify.

Students may not need the coach in the track suit, but they can still obtain the knowledge needed to protect themselves from infections, unwanted pregnancies and many other things. If the district were to provide a sex education class, students could learn about the importance of protecting themselves, along with the possible decrease in teen pregnancies and STI rates in Arkansas.

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