A Cleveland after-school program teaches teens to talk to other teens about emotionally and physically safe sex instead of pretending premarital boning never happens. Imagine that!
Taxpayers spend millions of dollars on abstinence-only education programs that don't work. Case Western Reserve University's Infectious Disease Alliance is trying a different tactic to help combat the area's rising teen HIV rates: peer education. It's a "tried and true approach," according to Amanda Healan, a co-director of the grant-funded program that links university research to community needs, but it's one we don't hear enough about when it comes to teens and sex.
Here are some examples of typical teen-to-teen convos care of the Plain Dealer:
[Asked by a high school freshman] "You mean, if she's drunk or high and says, 'Yes,' that's still rape?"
Several of the boy's friends sitting nearby seemed nearly as incredulous, silently shaking their heads in agreement with the question.
Standing in front of the nearly 20 teens, mostly boys, 18-year-old senior Scott Traylor confirmed in a steady voice: "That's rape."
...the peer educators spent most of the hour-long session in April talking about questions that teens had anonymously put in a box after each session. Questions such as "Is it safe to have unprotected sex in a pool with chlorine?"; and, "Should you tell you partner your infected with an STI?"
when [peer educator Autumn Nalls] asked the group whether girls can get pregnant while having sex standing up, she wasn't shy or hesitant when a young man said be believed doing so prevented pregnancy because the sperm "ain't going up."
Someone across the room yelled "dumb" at the tall 15-year-old, who didn't seem embarrassed at all.
"The sperm is already swimming," Nalls said, motioning with her hands: "It's like a little tadpole."
After the session, the young man stopped and shrugged when asked if he still thought girls couldn't get pregnant standing up: "I feel like it's something to talk about and there might be some things I don't know and I'd like to learn."
The program is still evolving — there's a high drop-out rate, so the leaders plan to pair new recruits with senior peer educators to encourage them to stay in the program next year — but Healan said there's already "data that indicates the peer educators know the information and feel comfortable sharing it with others, and that knowledge filters into the community."
One particularly heart-warming detail is how educators pass out bags that don't only include condoms (flavored, at that) but "love letters" with supportive comments such as "Stay Safe" and "Thank you for coming." Consider that message compared to the "you will go to hell if you touch one breast or ask any questions about how to do so" alternative.
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