Sex is a big risk for teenagers |

Sex is a big risk for teenagers

Dr. Drew Werner

Twenty-one years! That seems like a long time, but to me it was scantly more than yesterday I watched my wife to be walk down one of the longest isles in the country to be given away by her father. Moments, later it seemed, we walked arm in arm outside into the hot July sun as a married couple. I can tell you I am the most fortunate man alive to have such a wonderful wife and family. I truly believe life was simpler then.Sure, I could go on about the changing morals in our society, and the break-up of the nuclear family. Perhaps someday I will tackle that tough issue. Today, however, I must turn back to reality and be thankful for those 21 years. During that time, nearly 16 years has been spent teaching marriage preparation for the Catholic Church. When we first taught marriage preparation, it was rare for an engaged couple to be living together. Now it almost the norm. Is that a good thing? Increasing divorce rates among couples living together before marriage and increasing numbers of single-parent households may provide the obvious answer.The statistics speak for themselves. According to the 2003 Eagle Cares Survey, 42 percent of Eagle County students between grades 9 and 12 have been sexually active (approximately 1,184 students). Of those who are sexually active, only 48 percent reportedly used a condom at last intercourse. That should be cause for alarm. Of the nearly 800 children born in Eagle each year, nearly 8 percent are to mothers between 15 and 19 years old.Although condoms remain an effective means of preventing sexually transmitted diseases, a large number of people are at risk because they either were not used, or were improperly used. Most young sexually-active people have heard the adage “having sex with someone is like having sex with everyone they have ever had sex with.” The world of STDs keeps going around. To break the chain of STDs and teenage pregnancy, prevention is our cornerstone. As you know, that starts at home. Open communication, love and support are important first steps. At the same time, acceptance and recognizing that the clock cannot be turned back are essential, too. When the decision has been made to be sexually active, having regular excellent medical care is the single most important thing to staying healthy. Preventing unintended pregnancy is an important responsibility, as well. While it may be a common expression that babies happen by accident, nothing could be further from the truth. Whether choosing natural family planning or medical contraception, thoughtful decision-making is required. Unfortunately for Eagle County’s estimated 2,000 sexually active teenagers and low-income patients, medical resources are limited.Recognizing that need, the Eagle County Health Department, through the support of a Title X grant, has just opened a family planning clinic. Staffed by Nancy Shurr, a nurse practitioner and with medical oversight by my partner, Dr. Angela Ammon, the clinic is now open in Eagle, and a second location will open in Avon. The clinic is targeting Eagle County residents below 150 percent of the poverty level who have not had access to similar care in the community. All patients who seek care at the clinic will be cared for, however. The family planning clinic is open by appointment only and can be reached by calling 328-8840. Medical care available at the clinic will include gynecological care and pap smears for women, as well as contraceptive counseling and STD testing for both women and men. As expected, care will be provided with complete confidentiality.Perhaps most importantly, it is OK to say no and not be sexually active. If, however, being sexually active is the right choice for you, remember that it is more than a decision; it is a responsibility. Your doctor or the Eagle Family Planning Clinic can help you take that responsibility seriously and stay healthy.Vail, Colorado

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