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South Has Worst Sexual Health Among Teenagers in U.S.

March 21, 2012

With the current attack on women's reproductive health, Planned Parenthood and comprehensive sex education in this country, advocates worry that limiting access to services and education has a negative impact on people's health, especially our youth.

The U.S. has the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and STD rates among young people of all developed nations in the world. But which region in the U.S. has the worst sexual health among teenagers? A recent report conducted by the Ms. Foundation and Auburn University found that it is the South.

Sexual Health of Young People in the U.S. South: Challenges and Opportunities analyzed Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and state health department data from Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. (Texas, Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma were not included in this study.)

According to the Ms. Foundation and the report, key findings include:

  • The South's sexual health profile ranks below that of every other region in the U.S.
  • The teenage birth rate is higher in the South than anywhere else in the country.
  • The teenage rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea are higher in the South than in other regions in the nation.
  • Poor sexual health among teenagers has real costs in terms of public funds. For example, in 2008 an estimated $2.3 billion from federal, state and local governments was spent on teenage childbearing-related expenses in the South.

The South comes in second in terms of HIV transmission rates (20.7 infections per 100,000 residents in 2009). Support for teaching sex education in public schools rose among Southerners from 73.8 percent in 1974 to 89.3 percent in 2010, but according to the report, much of the overall debate in the U.S. "has been fueled by emotional arguments about the appropriateness of abstinence-only education."

In addition to the statistics, the study addresses the challenges that impact the sexual health of young people, including high rates of poverty, low education rates and conservative culture.

But there is some good news.

According to the report, 90 percent of parents support evidence-based sex education in their children's schools. In an interview with, Yanyi Djamba, the director of the AUM Center for Demographic Research and lead researcher, said, "The studies all show that most people actually support the teaching of sex education. So it is not that people don't like it, it is that some leaders think that it is going to be a disaster if we teach them about medically-accurate, age-appropriate sex education."

The researchers are hoping that lawmakers, educators and parents will advocate for better "age-appropriate, medically accurate, evidence-based or evidence-informed sexual health education."

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for and

Follow Kellee on Twitter: @kelleent.

Copyright © 2012 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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This article was provided by TheBody.
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