Houston Chronicle (04.05.12) - Friday, April 13, 2012
A new initiative launched in Austin aims to reduce Texas
teens' steep pregnancy and STD rates by encouraging youths to
text sexual or reproductive health questions to experts and
receive a response within 24 hours.
Abstinence-only sex education curricula are presented in 96
percent of Texas publics schools, says the Texas Freedom
Network. Yet the Sexuality Information and Education Council
of the United States ranks Texas fifth-highest nationally for
state teen pregnancy rates, third for young people with
HIV/AIDS, and fourth for teen syphilis.
Other major cities - including San Francisco, Chicago, and
Washington - already have adopted similar programs. Experts
maintain teens and parents alike could benefit from the
initiative, which provides easy, safe, and free access to
accurate sex information through a medium popular with youths.
"We wanted to use something that meets teenagers on their
turf," said Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services
(HHS) health educator Jeni Brazeal. "They need accurate
information to make healthy decisions for themselves." Brazeal
recounts receiving questions ranging from "How do I tell my 5-
year-old where babies come from?" to "What type of condom is
Houston HHS spokeswoman Kathy Barton said city officials are
considering texting HIV information to augment e-mail,
Facebook, and Twitter efforts.
Similarly, the "Text4Baby" program was launched in 2010 by a
partnership of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies
Coalition and the US Department of Health and Human Services
to allow new and expecting mothers to receive free
informational texts on pregnancy and motherhood. It now boasts