Good and bad news for West Virginia lawmakers looking over data from the latest sexual health survey of the state's middle school and high school students.
According to the 2011 survey, analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50.9 percent of the 39,642 students in grades six to 12 admitted to being sexually active.
The good news is that number is down from 63.1 percent in 1993, the Register-Herald reports. The bad news is the percentage of sexually active teens not using birth control pills has changed very little, dropping just five points to 74.5 percent. (However, it is worth noting the number is less than the national statistic of 82 percent.)
In addition, 39.7 percent of teens in West Virginia said they did not use a condom during their last encounter.
These statistics might be troubling when coupled with the CDC's announcement earlier this year that while teen birth rates have declined across the country between 2007 and 2010, West Virginia was one of only three states where rates did not change significantly. (Montana's and North Dakota's rates also held steady.)
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ranks West Virginia ninth among states with the highest teen birth rates for females ages 15-19.
In February, an attempt to push state legislation requiring health insurers to cover birth control and maternity costs for daughters of uninsured families failed. West Virginia Senate Bill 194, the Insurance Fairness Act, which was endorsed by the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resource Accountability, stalled in committee, the West Virginia Gazette notes.
The Register-Herald reported that a new bill, HCR 107, which deals solely with possible changes to the state's sex-ed curriculum, is now in a subcommittee of its own.
Currently, the West Virginia Department of Education mandates that schools teach a comprehensive sex education class that is not abstinence-only. This policy has flexibility, however, as teachers can teach based on an "abstinence-based model."
"The content standards say it can be abstinence-based," Mary Weikle, coordinator with the Office of Health Schools, said in an article featured on the West Virginia Education Association website. "If that is a focus in the community, you can do abstinence-based, but you cannot do abstinence-only. If they are, they are not following policy."
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, public schools in 21 states and the District of Columbia are required to teach sex education. In addition, 33 states and the District of Columbia make it mandatory for children to receive information about HIV/AIDS. (For more details visit NCSL.org.)
Read the full CDC survey here.
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