Teen Sexual Health—Money Matters

April 30, 2008

This post is a part of a national Youth Media Blog-a-Thon on violence sponsored by YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia and WireTap Magazine.

Did you know that 1 in 4 teen girls has a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and that for the first time in 14 years, the teen birth rate has increased? When will we get a clue? Clearly, teens need access to health services, like clinics, and honest, accurate information, so they can take care of their sexual health.

Stopping the spread of STDs like HIV/AIDS and reducing teen pregnancy rates costs money. But here’s a major problem: Money is tight for everyone nowadays. Maybe you think budget cuts don’t have anything to do with teen sexual health. But in reality, the way Uncle Sam spends taxpayers’ money has a direct impact on YOU:

  • The number of teen pregnancies and rate of STD infection would only increase if Medicaid spending is cut. Millions of low-income teens rely on Medicaid for health services, including access to birth control, like the Pills and condoms, and other services, like clinics.
  • Ever been to a Planned Parenthood or other Title-X clinic? When these clinics don’t get the funding they need, teens have to pay more for confidential services, such as counseling, gynecological exams, STD testing and birth control. Sometimes, a clinic will have to stop offering certain services altogether because they don’t have enough funding.
  • If knowledge is power, then why is sex education so poorly funded? Comprehensive sex education gives teens the information they need to make healthy and responsible decisions about sex, but there’s no federal funding for comprehensive sex ed. Instead, our government funds abstinence-only sex programs, even though study after study shows that these programs don’t work. Isn’t it time the government stopped pumping money into something that’s proven to be ineffective?

If we’re serious about improving teen sexual health, shouldn’t we increase funding for Medicaid and Title X and stop funding abstinence-only programs?

We won’t see the STD rate or teen birth rate decrease overnight. But in the long run, giving teens comprehensive sex education and providing access to safe, affordable and well-funded sexual and reproductive health programs will greatly reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and help stop the spread of STDs. Let’s hope that the next president keeps teens in mind when he or she thinks about how to spend taxpayer dollars.

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