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HIV epidemic among African-American youth in La.

Abstinence-only sex ed related

Dr. Mark Alain Déry, a physician specializing inHIV/AIDS at Tulane University, has experienced what he has called “a cruel testimony for how hard life can be,” referring to his job of end-of-life care for HIV-infected patients in the city ofNew Orleans, a city that continuously ranks top five in the highest cases of HIV/AIDS nationwide, in a state that ranked first this year in terms of HIV among young people aged 13 to 24.
 
In May, Déry attended the Louisiana House Education Committee, testifying before them how many of the younger African American teens he's treated have admitted they had received either no sex education or abstinence-only sex education. Déry pleaded with the committee to to vote yes on a measure that required the teaching of comprehensive sex education in public schools. The committee voted no on the measure. A few months later, Déry released a study, co-authored by researcher Liana Elliot, which was featured at the International Aids Conference in Washington, D.C.
 
“In the US, the African American population is disproportionally affected by HIV,” Déry said, adding that “the communities that are most at risk are not getting the information they need the most.”
 
The study, “Reducing Sexual Health Disparities Among Adolescents,” shows a very strong correlation between abstinence-only sex education in public schools and the epidemic HIV rates among African-American youth in Louisiana. The study uses figures from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals from 2011, showing that 76 percent of HIV-infections were among African-Americans.
 
As for other studies on the subject of the larger impacts of no sex education, abstinence-only sex education, and comprehensive, while some studies have shown evidence contradicted others, the majority of them strongly imply that abstinence-only education does not prevent HIV-infection as effectively as comprehensive sex ed.
 
Rev. Gene Mills, the pro-abstinence executive director of one of the most influential lobbying groups in Louisiana, the Louisiana Family Forum, told the Times-Picayune that there are two two "irreconcilable" world views at play in the debate of sexual education: one where teenage sex is inevitable, and the other where it is avoidable.
 
One of the top arguments made by abstinence-only advocates, such as Mills, is that abstinence-only sex education decreases sexual encounters among students and brings down teenage pregnancy. However, a review a few years back by the National Campaign To Prevent Teenage Pregnancy, entitled “Emerging Answers” debunks that claim. The review examined 250 studies of sex education programs. The study concluded that "no comprehensive program hastened the initiation of sex or increased the frequency of sex, results that many people fear."
 
The report also stated “comprehensive programs worked for both genders, for all major ethnic groups, for sexually inexperienced and experienced teens, in different settings, and in different communities."
 
According to Louisiana law, all sex education must emphasize that “abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage is the expected standard for all school-age children”. The Louisiana sex education law also prevents “any sexually explicit materials depicting male or female homosexual activity.”
 
According to a 2012 Center for Disease Control and Prevention report, in 2011 only 75 percent of Louisiana high school students were taught about HIV/AIDS, much lower than the national average of 84 percent nationwide.
 
To address the growing HIV epidemic, Dr. Déry and Elliot propose a comprehensive sexual education model of sex education where public schools would have to purchase a state permit to teach abstinence-only sex education, where the money would ultimately return to the state and, hopefully, be allocated toward medical facilities providing care to HIV-infections and teen pregnancy.
 
Though their study focuses on the effect of sex education on HIV infection, Dr. Déry and Elliot state that many other factors can lower teenage HIV rates, including better access to contraceptives, and access to more after-school activities.
 
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