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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Abstinence Touted to Teens
Christine L. Bordelon
October 28, 2003
Times-Picayune (New Orleans) (10.26.03) - Tuesday, October 28,

Erika Harold, Miss America 2003, spoke to an audience of about 2,000 middle and high school students, teachers and advisers at the Ponchartrain Center in Kenner, La., on Oct. 20 on the value of virginity. She appeared at the fall regional conference of the Governor's Program on Abstinence, one of five speaking engagements on the GPA conference tour of the state.

Harold, 23, said she has abstained from sex, a decision she made as an Illinois high school student. She has been speaking to students about her decision since age 18, and she said deciding to wait to have sex empowered her as she watched fellow high school students suffer the emotional scars and consequences of premarital sex.

She told the audience that choosing abstinence is courageous and, "It's something that can change the world." Dan Richey, state coordinator of the abstinence program, said, "We think the time has come for abstinence. It represents the new sexual revolution." Dr. Dee Burbank, medical director of the program, noted that sex can spread STDs, including HIV, and can crush the dreams of teens who get pregnant. She cited statistics about the part alcohol plays in 75 percent of first-time sexual encounters, and said that STDs have increased from 1 in 300 Americans in 1970 to 1 in 4 having at least one such disease today. Burbank held up a condom and joked about its ineffectiveness against STDs.

The GPA offers schools a 12-week curriculum, holds four statewide events a year, and conducts regional and national seminars in Washington, D.C.

"Not too many programs teach students about abstinence," said Lauren Jones, 17, a senior at Xavier Preparatory School in New Orleans. "It's a good idea to hear that there still are people who stay abstinent before they get married."