Promoting a Culture of Life
Prominent social worker discusses the teenage pregnancy and STD crisis challenging minority communities.
Last week’s release of the latest teen pregnancy and STD rates revealed an alarming spike in numbers, notably among Hispanic and black communities. demo dirt asked experts in the field of social work, particularly those working with minority populations, for their feedback on the issue. Baby Don’t You Do It examined the issue with the help of Maribel Quiala, LCSW, PA and Maria Elisa Cuadra, LCSW-R, ACSW, CASAC, CPP, CPS, experts on the challenges facing the Hispanic population. Here, Bernadette Marson, LCSW, ACSW, leading expert on issues within the black community, shares her point of view on the topic and her reaction to the article.
It’s no secret that teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) had fallen dramatically prior to the Bush Administration, only to see a significant increase under his administration. Reports have stated that the Bush Administration “abstinence only” policy of sex education is responsible for the increase. In retrospect, whilst I cannot directly negatively sight the Bush Administration for the increase I would agree that the “abstinence only” policy is not effective in a culture that is as highly sexualized as the United States.
In a comparison study published in the Family Planning Perspectives with five developed countries (Sweden, France, Great Britain, Canada and the United States) the United States ranked #1 with the highest numbers of teenage pregnancies and STDs. The difference between these countries and the Unites States is that, unlike the United States, contraceptives are easily available to teenagers at no or low cost.
I agree with the statements made by Maribel Quiala, LCSW, PA and Maria Elisa Cuadra, LCSW-R, ACSW, CASAC, CPP, CPS, on the issues facing Latinas. There are noticeable disparities in the rates of pregnancy and STDs in the black and Hispanic communities, when compared to non-Hispanic and black teenagers. The HIV/STD and pregnancy rate has risen among black teenagers and three main elements that has contributed to the increase is the fact that black teenagers who are sexually active are more apt to have multiple sexual partners, they are less likely to use any form of protection or birth control and teenage girls are more likely to have a partner much older than herself.
Teenage pregnancy is often associated with alcohol and drugs, poverty, sexual abuse and sexual values and behaviors. Therefore, I believe that if we are to adequately prevent teenage pregnancy and decrease STDs we must not only focus on abstinence but on the myriad causes and preventative measures. Through education, we can disseminate information to educate teenagers on all of the various factors involving sexuality, teenage pregnancy, reproductive health, STDs, alcohol, substance abuse, sexual abuse, poverty, culture and self-esteem. They are all interrelated and must be incorporated into the education program. In addition, I strongly believe that children should be educated about the use of contraception and engaging in risky sexual behaviors.
Parents should also become actively involved in the education process. They can do so by creating a stable family environment; by being supportive, loving and involved; by communicating with their teenagers and monitoring their activities and seeking professional help, if there are concerns.
Sexuality is an integral part of human development and health and should be viewed from that perspective. Looking at the effectiveness of the countries that promote the use of contraceptives, it is important that we try a variety of preventative measures rather than “abstinence only”.
Bernadette C. Marson, ACSW, LCSW, is head of NY-based Marson LCSW and Consulting Services, PLLC which offers behavioral health care services to children, adolescents and adults suffering from a wide range of mental health disorders, such as depression, post traumatic stress disorder, ADHD and anxiety, among other issues.
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