Palin detracts from sexual education

Tessa Madden, MD, MPH; Mary C. Politi, PhD; Jeffrey Peipert, MD, PhD; David Eisenberg, MD, MPH; Katie Plax, MD; Sarah Tycast, MD

According to its mission statement on its website, the Washington University SHAC promotes “healthy decision making” about “safer sex.” In order to promote safer sex practices and sexual responsibility, students need scientifically accurate information about unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention. The estimated $20,000 Wash. U. will pay Bristol Palin to speak could alternatively be used for:

1. Approximately 100,000 condoms
2. Approximately 1,000 tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia
3. Approximately 1,000 tests for HIV

Comprehensive sex education, which includes abstinence education, is effective in preventing unplanned pregnancy and STIs. In contrast, abstinence-only education has been shown to increase unwanted pregnancy and STIs. Wash. U. students need information about available resources to prevent unplanned pregnancy and STIs. Choosing a polarizing, political figure as keynote speaker detracts from the overall message of Sexual Responsibility Week and the mission of SHAC by focusing on politics above science. SHAC states that they want to draw attention to these issues but choosing Bristol Palin attracts the wrong type of attention and inhibits an inclusive conversation about sexual responsibility.

College-aged women are at risk for unplanned pregnancy—82 percent of pregnancies among 15-19 year olds and 60 percent of pregnancies among 20-24 year olds are unintended. Half of all new STIs occur in individuals under the age of 25. Sexual responsibility is a serious health issue for college students, and one that deserves a serious, balanced, scientific panel. As health care providers who regularly talk to patients about unwanted pregnancy and STIs and as public health researchers who promote responsible health behaviors and informed decision making, we hope to see more balanced, evidence-based discussions about these issues in the future.

Tessa Madden, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Mary C. Politi, PhD
Assistant Professor
Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of Surgery

Jeffrey Peipert, MD, PhD
Robert J. Terry Professor and
Vice Chair of Clinical Research
Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

David Eisenberg, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Katie Plax, MD
Director, Division of Adolescent and
Diagnostic Medicine
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Department of Pediatrics

Sarah Tycast, MD
Assistant Professor
Division of Adolescent Medicine
Department of Pediatrics

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