In Florida, for every 1,000 young women, 57.3 are likely to become teen mothers.
According to www.myflorida.com, Florida ranks fourth in adolescent births and women 19 years old or younger have 20 percent of the state’s births.
Based on the Department of Health’s data, the 15-29 age group has the highest rate of STDs.
Tallahassee organizations such as Planned Parenthood of North Central Florida and Pregnancy Help and Information Center have been working toward reversing this trend for over 20 years. These non-profit organizations work within the community to promote sexual awareness among youth.
Planned Parenthood, which has been in business for almost 25 years, has a branch in Tallahassee and in Gainesville and caters to sexually active teens and young adults. Their services include pregnancy tests, birth control, sexually transmitted disease testing, adoption and abortion referrals, and other reproductive issues.
Although the Tallahassee branch does not offer specific programs, it sponsors outreach programs through classrooms around the Big Bend area. There’s also an on-site library where people can get brochures, books and other information about pregnancy and STDs.
The branch hopes to expand its services to include support groups and other outlets like those at the Gainesville branch.
“We feel that it’s necessary to open people’s eyes to the issues, such as certain ways to get pregnant and that some [birth control] methods aren’t right methods,” said Christine Gajda, Planned Parenthood of North Central Florida representative.
“We also teach people about the importance of early detection,” she said.
Their most popular and effective services are pregnancy and STD testing, but they provide treatment and education along the way.
“We have counseling sessions no matter the outcome. If the test results are negative, we teach the person about contraception and protection against STDs,” Gajda said. “If they are positive, we help the person discuss options such as pre-natal care, adoption, and abortion.”
Serving Tallahassee, the Big Bend Area, and south Georgia since 1974, the Pregnancy Help and Information Center focuses on abstinence among young adults. It hosts the outreach program “Pure Strength,” in which representatives visit middle schools, high schools, and colleges to promote sexual purity until marriage.
“We are in the business of promoting abstinence because its only sure method against pregnancy and STDs,” said Connie Moore, PHIC program head.
According to Moore, “Pure Strength” also educates teens and young adults on the myths about contraception and STD protection. Teens have a 20 percent protection failure rate because of improper use.
The center provides free pregnancy and STD tests, counseling, support groups parenting classes, and assistance to teen parents as needed.
“Our most effective program is taking care of immediate need such as giving baby food, diapers, and clothes to teen parents; testing; and counseling,” Moore said.
Both organizations have been key in reducing the number of sexually active youth.
“We get feedback letters all the time from students saying that our program kept them from being sexually active and from sexually active students saying it wasn’t worth it,” Moore said.
For more information about these organizations, you may contact Planned Parenthood of North Central Florida at (850)574-7455 and Pregnancy Help and Information Center at (850)222-7177.