High STD rates in Utah due to improper sex education

Posted Thursday, February 2, 2006 - 12:00am

According to a study conducted by the CDC, there has been a rise in the number of STD infections in Utah teens.

Utah syphilis rates were fairly steady in 2005, with 13 cases reported, while gonorrhea cases in the state rose from 231 to 603 in 2004. Whereas Utah chlamydia cases climbed from 2,188 cases in 2000 to 3,857 in 2004.

Seventy five percent of Utah's STD cases are ages 15-29 and 75 percent are females.

The Utah Department of Health is working to educate the public, especially young people about STD's and prevention. While the agency wants to work more with high school students, it has so far only been permitted to speak about the diseases only to high school students in the Granite and Weber school districts.

The reason for this is because in 2004, Utah received a $294, 318 in federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

The Utah-state code mandates that the State Board of Education establish a curriculum for the prevention of communicable diseases. However, the instructions must stress abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage as methods for preventing communicable diseases.

These programs also forbid the teaching of the intricacies of intercourse, the advocacy of gay and lesbian relationships, contraception education as well as the advocacy of sexual activity outside of marriage.

Any educator who is newly hired or assigned for the teaching of sexuality, HIV/AIDS, STD, or teen pregnancy prevention must attend a state-sponsored meeting outlining the curriculum requirements.

Students must give the teacher a written permission slip from their parent or guardian to participate in any form of sexuality education.

Utah's abstinence only programs mainly target male and female ages 9 to 14 and parents with a message of abstinence from all sexual behavior.

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), reviewed the curricula of these programs and found that in order to convince students to refrain from intercourse until marriage, the provide incomplete and inaccurate medical information; present opinions and beliefs as the universal truth; and portray a biased view of gender, marriage, family structure, sexual orientation, and pregnancy options.

The programs where also found discouraging to gay students because the laws in Utah forbid them from marriage.

Research is continuing to show that comprehensive sex education, which teaches both abstinence and contraception use, is most effective and positive for young people. Youth who receive this kind of education are more likely to initiate sexual activity later in life and use protection correctly and consistently when they do become sexually active. Evaluations of comprehensive sex education programs show that these programs delay the onset of sexual activity, reduce the frequency of sexual activity and reduce the number of sexual partners, and increase condom and contraceptive use.

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