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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
NEW MEXICO: Can't Hardly Wait: Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Finds its Way to New Mexico
By Joey Peters
September 20, 2013
Santa Fe Reporter (09.17.2013)

The New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) and New Mexico State University (NMSU) quietly began to accept federal funding for abstinence-only education programs in fall 2012, six years after DOH rejected a federal grant for abstinence-only education in public schools. According to DOH Spokesperson Kenny Vigil, the state had accepted more than $470,000 in federal abstinence-only funds, to which the state added in-kind contributions of more than $350,000. Vigil stated that the funding offered New Mexico another sex education option. New Mexico reported the highest teen pregnancy rate and highest chlamydia and gonorrhea rates in the country, and DOH stated that 30 percent of students under 15 reported they had had sex. According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), DOH used the money to fund a community-based curriculum called “Sex Can Wait” in Chavez, Cibola, Curry, Doña Ana, Eddy, Lea, and Luna counties. SIECUS advocated for comprehensive sex education for teens and tracked abstinence-only federal dollars. However, Vigil stated that DOH had piloted the “Sex Can Wait” program, developed in 1994 by Dr. Michael Young, and would offer the curriculum in Curry County middle school after-school programs. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics both opposed abstinence-only education, and a 2007 US Department of Health and Human Services study confirmed that students who took abstinence-only courses were likely to have their first sex at the same age and to have as many partners as students who did not receive abstinence-based sex education. Critics noted that abstinence-based education failed to teach teens about birth control and contraception. Santa Fe Public Schools refused abstinence-only funding and partnered with Planned Parenthood to provide comprehensive sex education for public school students in grades 7–9.