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Sunday, September 4, 2016

No Sex Ed in Utah = Increasing STD Rates Among Teens

Utah is the state with the highest birth rate in the U.S. The average woman in Utah (and the average woman in Utah is, of course, Mormon) has 2.33 children, compared to the national average of 1.86, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control for 2014, the most recent year for which data are available. The next closest state is South Dakota at 2.27, while at the other end, the state with the lowest fertility level is Rhode Island at 1.56. To put Utah's birth rate into perspective, it is slightly higher than Mexico's (which has a TFR of 2.2, according to the latest World Population Data Sheet from the PRB).

Consistent with the Mormon perspective on high fertility, the schools in the state tend to downplay sex education, focusing on abstinence and banning topics on contraception, including condoms. The condom prevents not only pregnancies, but also the spread of sexually transmitted, including HIV and gonorrhea, and here is an emerging health issue. It seems that the rate of gonorrhea infection in Utah is increasing at a rapid rate.
Since 2011, the gonorrhea rate in the state “has increased substantially,” according to the CDC. We’re talking a fivefold increase to 49 cases per 100,000 people in 2014. (To put this in perspective, though, the national rate is 110.7 cases per 100,000 people.) Between 2011 and 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, the gonorrhea rate was higher among men than women, but the percentage increase was much greater among women (715 percent) than among men (297 percent).
Notably, Utah’s sex education stresses abstinence and does not require teachers to provide information about contraceptives, and it specifically does require information about condoms to be presented in HIV-prevention education, according to a Guttmacher report.
To its credit, Utah is not a leader in teen births (a topic I discussed recently), even if the rate of STDs is increasing. Data for 2014 show that the birth rate among women 15-19 is 19.4 per 1,000, which is below the national average of 24.2, but almost twice the level in Massachusetts, which is 10.6--the lowest in the nation. 

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