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Local and Community News

Florida: Teen Mentors to Target Sex

January 7, 2003

The new Resource Teens Program in Hernando County, Fla., will use teen peer educators to teach teenagers about pregnancy and STD prevention, refusal skills and reproductive health.

Mary Benedett, adolescent health education specialist for the County Health Department, which runs the program, said it will also focus on eating disorders, substance abuse and relationships. "[Preventing] teen pregnancy is our main goal, but so many things impact that," Benedett said. "Frequently, kids will get high or drunk or whatever, and then put themselves at risk. We're trying to make [the program] well rounded."

Benedett plans to model Resource Teens on the successful Students Working Against Tobacco program. Teenagers will be trained as peer educators and then go into the community to give other teens specific information about sexual activity and consequences of the behavior.

In 2001, 13.2 percent of live births in Hernando County were to teenagers, compared with 12 percent statewide, 14.2 percent in Citrus County and 12.3 percent in Pasco County, according to the state Department of Health. A year earlier, 12.4 percent of live births in Hernando were to teenagers.

"I think it's better for a teen to speak to another teen, because they listen to their parents all the time -- 'Safe sex. Don't have sex,'" said 18-year-old Heather Regateiro, a peer educator with the program.

In 2001, the county had its first recorded instances of 14-year-old mothers giving birth, Benedett said, and she was aware of at least one birth in 2002 to a 12-year-old mother. In 2001, 165 county teens gave birth, up from 146 in 2000.

"I know there's a lot of younger teens out there that don't understand the reasons why they should be having safe sex," Regateiro said. "I just want to spread the information to as many teenagers as I can."

Back to other CDC news for January 7, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
St. Petersburg Times
01.05.03; Jeffrey S. Solochek

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.