The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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March 16, 2008

Our View: Improve sex education

It’s never been surprising news, nor will it ever be that a good share of teens have sex.

The 2007 Minnesota Student Survey results back that up, citing that 45 percent of males in grade 12 and 46 percent of females in grade 12 in the Mankato school district said they’ve had sexual intercourse.

A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week should cause parents and educators to open their eyes even wider.

At least one in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease.

And yes, that means they’re having sex. Unprotected sex. And that means abstinence-based sex education, which many school districts teach, including Mankato’s, is obviously not doing the job. In Mankato 32 percent of female 12th-graders who said they are sexually active said they rarely or never use a condom.

Teaching abstinence is not a bad thing. But it doesn’t anticipate real behavior of many teenagers and it is only part of the big picture when it comes to discussing choices.

There’s no ignoring the fact some teens think if they avoid intercourse and choose to participate in sexual touching or oral sex instead, then they are playing it safe.

The CDC study found the most common sexually transmitted disease, one that can be spread through skin-to-skin contact or oral sex, is the human papillomavirus. HPV can cause cervical cancer and is the second most common cause of infertility. Many STDs have no symptoms, complicating the detection and delaying treatment.

This new information should jump start all parents to discuss immunizing their daughters against HPV. The new vaccine isn’t an endorsement for girls to have sex; it’s protecting them from the possibility of not suffering serious or deadly consequences because they may make what is obviously a fairly common teenage decision as revealed by the CDC study.

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