Research Updates from Advocates for Youth

Advocates for Youth, a premier organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the sexual health of young people in the US and globally has just published its Summer 2012 Newletter. Below are some of the research updates cited in this issue. Read the issue in its entirety.

  • Teen condom use over the last 2 decades has increased but work is still needed. In this week’s MMWR on trends in HIV-related risk behaviors among high school students we learn that while condom use among sexually active high school students has increased over time (from 45 percent in 1991 to 60 percent in 2011), it has leveled off since 2003 – indicating that progress has stalled. Among Black students, who experience higher rates of HIV than white students, condom use has actually decreased significantly since 1999. Lawrence Stallworth, an activist with Advocates for Youth and Cleveland AIDS Task Force, commented on the rise in new infections among young African American men who have sex with men in this AP article.
  • A new report from the Black AIDS Institute has devastating news about the HIV epidemic and Black gay men “A young Black gay man has a roughly 1-in-4 chance of being infected by age 25. By the time he is 40 years old, the odds a Black gay men will be living with HIV is roughly 60 percent. One can scour the entire world and struggle to find a population more heavily affected by HIV/AIDS than Black gay in the U.S.”
  • The drug Truvada was recently approved as “pre exposure prophylaxis” for HIV, meaning that people who are at high risk for HIV may use it as HIV prevention. More guidance as to its usage is expected from the FDA and other public health entities by the end of this year.
  • The HPV vaccine may already be creating “herd immunity.” “Herd immunity” is a term that refers to when vaccination protects even those who are not vaccinated by reducing the number of people who are susceptible to a disease and breaking the chain of infection. The study found that between a group of young women ages 13-26 seen at a clinic in 2006, and a group seen in 2009 after the vaccine was widely available, rates of HPV had dropped by 50 percent even among those who had not received the vaccination. The participants in the study were low-income African American women living in an urban area; nationwide, urban African American young women experience high rates of STDs, which this vaccine may help lower.

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Fascinating NYT Magazine Article about “Gender Fluid” Kids

It’s truly remarkable how quickly American attitudes and practices are changing toward kids who don’t, can’t, and, increasingly, won’t fit themselves into the culture’s strict binary expectations about sexuality and gender. By insisting on being themselves, they teach all of us important lessons about being authentic human beings.


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Louisiana School Forces Students to Take Pregnancy Tests, Kicks Out Girls Who Refuse Or Test Positive

Quite a header for an article by Tara Culp posted this week at No doubt the school in question, the Delhi Charter School in Delhi, Louisiana, will be taken to task by the ACLU and other groups for instituting a policy that is blatantly discriminatory–not to mention that it sanctions the forced invasion of a student’s privacy in the most personal of ways. As the school’s student handbook makes clear, even girls who are simply “suspected” of being pregnant will be required to submit to mandatory pregnancy testing. And, all of this in the name of coping with the state’s high rates of teen pregnancy!

The policy probably will not stand for long, but in a way that’s not even the point. Public shaming, and engendering fear, and anxiety and guilt, are the least helpful ways of reaching teens about sexuality.This kind of approach virtually guarantees that teen behavior will go even further underground, since adults have cast themselves as “the enemy,” certainly not trusted Go-To people whose caring advice and guidance is what young people need. The real tragedy in many cases will be teen girls attempting to hide their pregnancies for as long as possible, thereby endangering their own life and health, and the outcomes of their pregnancies, because they will be afraid to seek and receive proper attention to prenatal care.

Let’s not forget the message to boys–and about boys–that this horribly misguided policy unequivocally promotes: It’s all the girl’s fault and it’s all her problem. And she should and will be punished for it.


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A Child’s Views on Same Sex Marriage

This Kara Corridan blog at reveals how important it is–and how hard it can be–to keep your own reactions in check long enough to see the world through the eyes of your child.

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Atlantic article: Why We Keep Getting Pregnant Accidentally

Lindsay Abrams writes in The Atlantic that, according to the National Survey of Family Growth released this month, a whopping 37% of all US births result from unplanned pregnancies. The overall number of unplanned pregnancies annually is actually much higher, since that figure reflects only pregnancies that resulted in birth and excludes miscarriages and induced abortions. Very telling is the most frequently cited reason for not using birth control among women surveyed who chose not to use it: “I didn’t think I would get pregnant.” Clearly, denial and magical thinking are not solely the province of teenagers. The underlying question is this: Why are so many women living in 21st Century America so ignorant and/or irrational concerning even the most basic knowledge about sexual intercourse and reproduction, and why aren’t we addressing this issue prominently on a national level? Surely, comprehensive human sexuality education is part of the solution. For other provocative details, check out the full story at Atlantic.

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