Public News Service (Boulder, CO) (04.02.13)
Aids Weekly Plus
Teens in juvenile detention settings are greatly at-risk for an STD or pregnancy. However, a Minnesota program, Sexual Health and Adolescent Risk Prevention (SHARP), is making a positive difference to teens in Minnesota’s detention settings, according to David Kurtzon, program manager of Teenwise Minnesota. SHARP is specifically designed for adolescents in detention to help them develop better skills in decision-making, goal setting, and awareness regarding the kinds of choices they have made.
Teenwise Minnesota currently is working to get the SHARP program into a number of county correctional facilities. Kurtzon explained that teens who had participated in SHARP were making fewer sexually risky decisions, even a year later. He also noted SHARP’s emphasis on alcohol abuse and understanding the connection between unsafe sexual behaviors and the use and abuse of alcohol. Teens who had attended SHARP a year previously were using less alcohol, and they were abusing alcohol less.
Psychologist Michael O'Brien, who has worked for 30 years in Minnesota’s juvenile justice system, stressed the importance of getting real-life information to teenagers, emphasizing that since teens get most of their sex education from the Internet, they need to be taught the real-life consequences of contracting an STD or ending up pregnant and responsible for a child for the next 18 years. In Minnesota, approximately 5,000 teenagers become pregnant each year, while 50 percent of all sexually active persons will contract an STD by the age of 25. The numbers for young people in detention facilities are much higher.