Chlamydia outbreak: When science and ethical values clash, consequences ensue

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57447411The Crane Independent School District in West Texas sent letters to parents confirming an outbreak of chlamydia in the local high school. District officials have reported at least 20 cases of the disease an estimated 1 in 15 students at the school have contracted chlamydia. Chlamydia is one of most common sexually transmitted diseases, and affects both men and women. Its symptoms range from none (asymptomatic) to urinary complaints; if severe, it can cause reproductive problems.

Several sources have reported that Crane ISD offers no formal sex education. However, the high school does offer a yearly optional three-day sexual education course that that emphasizes abstinence. According to the school s handbook, the curriculum must devote more attention to abstinence from sexual activity than to any other behavior and it should direct adolescents to a standard of behavior in which abstinence from sexual activity before marriage is the most effective way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. School superintendent Jim Rumage defended the curriculum: That s not a bad thing, because if kids are not having any sexual activity, they can t get this disease. That s not a bad program.

The United States invested more than $1.5 billion in federal and state funding on abstinence-only sex education programs from 1996 to 2008. These programs often provide misinformation and withhold accurate information about the effectiveness of STD prevention and various birth control methods. Studies have found that abstinence-only programs have no impact on rates of sexual abstinence. Yet research has shown that teenagers who received some type of comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant than those who received no sex education.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross had this perspective: While abstinence-only may be the ideal, it is clearly not the reality. Evidence shows that despite receiving no sex education or abstinence-only sex education, teens are going to be sexually active. Programs should prioritize teens safety instead of continuing to ineffectively push abstinence with scare tactics and misinformation. What Supt. Rumage said is, in fact, correct: IF kids are not having sex, they will not contract chlamydia, nor any other STD, nor will they get pregnant. The reality remains, however, and head-in-the-sand approaches fail too often."