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Letter: Sex Education a Must For Teenagers’ Health

Letter to the editor, Wall Street Journal

J. Dennis Fortenberry suggests that routine school-based STD (sexually transmitted disease) testing is the solution to reducing the high numbers of adolescents with undiagnosed STDs (Health & Technology, Feb. 13). Universal testing in schools is not the answer to this problem. Rather, education — both for students and for health-care providers who work with young people — will address patients’ needs without the associated “thorny issues of politics, costs and confidentiality.”

Schools, with their captive teenage audiences, provide an ideal forum to encourage positive adolescent health practices. Currently, many sex-education programs do not offer information about the comprehensive confidential reproductive and other health care available to teens. Curricula that emphasize the importance of safer sex practices for sexually active students will encourage them to take responsibility for their own health. And studies show that such curricula do not promote sex.

Yet the Bush administration persistently promotes abstinence-only education, which excludes any discussion of prevention strategies. This approach callously disregards the health and well being of too many adolescents, more than half of whom are sexually active before their 17th birthdays.

Dhevi Kumar,
Anna Schissel

Ms. Kumar is the director of the NYCLU Teen Health Initiative; Ms Schissel is a law fellow with the NYCLU Reproductive Rights Project.

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