The Austin Chronicle

About Aids

November 6, 1998, Columns

One-half of U.S. high school students are sexually active, and of those, one-third have had four or more partners. These are among the findings released August 14 by the Centers for Disease Control in its new Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report for 1997. The implication for HIV infection and AIDS, as well as for pregnancy and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), is highlighted by the additional finding that only 57% use condoms. It also doesn't help that one-third of teens had five or more alcoholic drinks at a time at least once recently. Five? Talk about impaired judgment ...

The AIDS epidemic is now in its 18th year; it began, statistically speaking, with the opening of the Reagan era. Among other ways, these eighteen years have been characterized by (a) a sexually transmitted deadly epidemic; b) rampant teenage sexual activity; c) an official "Just Say No" approach to sexuality which discourages frank and informed discussion of sexual issues. The result is a nation with the highest STD, HIV, and unwed pregnancy rates in the developed world.

We've been through an entire generation now of this approach to sex and youth. It hasn't worked. When will a more pragmatic approach, concerned with public health instead of ideological unreachables, come to the fore?

-- Sandy Bartlett, Community Information/Education Coordinator, AIDS Services of Austin

ASA Info Line: 458-AIDS. E-mail:

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