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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
ALABAMA: State, US Teen Pregnancy Rates Slide: Contraception Use, Less Sexual Activity Credited
Jeff Hansen
March 29, 2012
Birmingham News (03.18.12) - Thursday, March 29, 2012

In Alabama and across the United States, teen pregnancy rates have dropped sharply since peaking in the early 1990s. According to a recent report from the Guttmacher Institute, there were 67.8 births per 1,000 US females ages 15-19 in 2008, the lowest level recorded in almost 40 years. Experts cite various factors for the decline.

A 2007 study by public health researcher Dr. John Santelli said three-quarters of the decline in pregnancy risk among girls 15-17 resulted from improvements in contraceptive use, including the use of multiple methods. About one-quarter of the decline is credited to a drop in sexual activity among teens.

But Alabama and the South still trail the rest of the nation in the sexual health of young people, says a new study by the Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM) Center for Demographic Research. It recommends that the goals of sex education include delaying sexual activity; reducing the frequency of sexual activity; reducing the number of partners and/or increasing use of condoms and other contraceptives.

"The good news is a majority of people are in support of teaching age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education in schools," said Yanyi Djamba, a report co-author and AUM center director.

Dr. Tom Miller, deputy director for medical affairs at the Alabama Department of Public Health, said he advocates for the use of condoms in addition to other contraception, since hormonal contraception alone will not protect against HIV or other STDs.

"We counsel teens on the importance of abstinence until they are ready to make decisions," said Miller, who was formerly a practicing obstetrician. "We're not promoting sexual activity in teens. But for those involved in sexual activity, it is equally important to know methods of contraception."