New UTHSC program answers question: Is sex worth the wait?

San Antonio (Nov. 7, 2003) – Four 12-year-olds and five 13-year-olds had babies in Bexar County last year. More than 60 girls gave birth at age 14 – some to their second child. And 224 girls gave birth at age 15. Teenage pregnancy is in runaway proportions in Bexar County.

Fortunately, 20,000 students in the Southwest and North East school districts in San Antonio will hear a positive message starting this spring: Sex is worth the wait.

“We think knowledge is power, and if we can give our adolescents knowledge and the support to make good decisions, then we believe they will decide sex is worth the wait,” said Kristen Plastino, Pharm.D., M.D., assistant professor at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) and coordinator of the Worth the Wait® program. Dr. Plastino and Robert S. Schenken, M.D., professor and chairman of the UTHSCSA department of obstetrics and gynecology, recently succeeded in obtaining a $246,000 abstinence education grant from the Texas Department of Health.

The Worth the Wait® program empowers teens to make decisions based on facts such as the problem of unwanted teen pregnancies and the ramifications of sexually transmitted disease. A program video shows three high school girls who have had to dramatically change their lifestyles after having babies. “We’ll teach the value of being able to refuse an activity, such as sex, that is not appropriate for one’s personal situation,” Dr. Plastino said. “We say sex isn’t bad, but not at this time in your life. It is an adult decision.”

The Worth the Wait® curriculum will be offered in grades six through nine. It focuses on presenting consistent messages to all groups, from parents, teachers and school nurses to bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and librarians – anyone who interacts with young people at school and in the community. “We want kids to hear repeat positive messages,” Dr. Plastino said. Parent presentations will be done in Spanish and English.

The program will start in the two Bexar County school districts and will expand as more funding is found. The Southwest and North East districts were the first to get implementation of the program approved by their health advisory committees, Dr. Plastino said.

Worth the Wait® originated at Scott and White Hospital in Temple, Texas, in 1996 and has expanded to cover more than 30 school districts and affect 33,000 students. Dr. Plastino will study attitudes of students toward sexual decision-making at the start of the program and after the first group has completed the curriculum.

“When teens have sex, unfortunate things can and do happen,” she said. “We all need to encourage kids to delay the onset of sexual activity.”

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