Six billboards, three in English and three in Spanish, will go up around San Antonio this week to let young people know that sex is worth the wait.
The billboard space was donated to the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) Sex Education Program by Clear Channel Outdoor – San Antonio.
Bexar County is not immune to the national problem of unwanted teen pregnancies and a high incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among teenagers. In 2003, a dozen 13-year-olds, more than 50 14-year-olds and more than 200 15-year-olds gave birth. Some of the 15-year-olds had their second and even third babies. “I wish that these figures surprised me, but they do not. It is literally true: our children are having children,” said Kristen Plastino, Pharm.D., M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Health Science Center.
Dr. Plastino is the program coordinator of the UTHSCSA Sex Education Program, which is made possible by the dedicated work of many community partners and a $246,000 grant from the State Department of Health Services. Robert S. Schenken, M.D., the Humana Foundation Chair and chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at UTHSCSA, is the principal investigator.
At a May 31 press conference, Dr. Plastino and Thomas Mayes, M.D., interim dean of the School of Medicine and chairman of pediatrics at the Health Science Center, discussed the need for such a program and its reach into area school districts and individual schools so far.
The districts and schools implementing the program are:
• South San Antonio Independent School District
• Southside ISD
• Southwest ISD
• Fort Sam Houston ISD
• Judson ISD
• Lackland ISD
• Comfort ISD
• Somerset ISD
• Pleasanton ISD
• The Schools of the Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio
• Castle Hills First Baptist School
• St. Peter Prince of Apostles School
• Incarnate Word High School
• Judson Montessori School
• The Winston School
“Because of these participants, this program has touched the lives of more than 15,000 teenagers in our schools,” Dr. Mayes said.
The program employs a curriculum for grades six, seven, eight and nine. The goal is to empower students to make good choices. “We say empowering because we believe young people are smart and want a safe and healthy future,” Dr. Plastino said. “Facts about their health and their bodies will encourage them to delay sexual activity and will help them understand that premarital sex can detract from a strong relationship and a future great sex life.”
The program does not label sex as bad, but stresses that it has its place in committed relationships undertaken when individuals are mature enough to accept this responsibility. “This program encourages students to think about the importance of decisions they make today. What are the consequences tomorrow? Young people should know they have choices. They are not locked in to risky behaviors. They can avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. They can wait to have sex,” Dr. Plastino said.
In addition to the unwanted pregnancies, more than 1,600 cases of STDs were reported in 12- to 17-year-olds during 2003.
UTHSCSA Sex Education Program Advisory Board:
Shelley Botello, Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital
Phillip Chavez, Southside Independent School District
Graciela Cigarroa, Bonilla and Cigarroa Law Offices
(and wife of Health Science Center President Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D.)
Julia Garcia, Edgewood Independent School District
Dr. Margaret Kelley, Southeast Ob/Gyn
Al Notzon, Alamo Area Council of Governments
Martha Pelaez, Family Violence Prevention Services
Kathleen Schenken, Community Liaison
Katrina Theis, Bexar County Medical Society Alliance
Bexar County Medical Society Alliance
Bexar County Women’s Bar Association
Bexar Pediatric Surgery Associates
Boys and Girls Clubs
Clear Channel Outdoor – San Antonio
Communities in Schools
Junior League of San Antonio
Mexican American Physicians Association
Pediatric Anesthesia Associates
University Health System
Women Partners in Ob/Gyn