Various Keynotes Fri 16th April 2004 All day University of Southern California The Pacific Institute for Women's Health, the UCLA Bixby Program in Population and Reproductive Health, and WYSE (Women and Youth Supporting Each Other)
"YOUTH REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH IN A CONTROVERSIAL CLIMATE: RECLAIMING STRATEGIES THAT WORK"
April 16-17, 2004, Los Angeles, CA
University of Southern California
Doheny Memorial Library, Room 240
(Figueroa Blvd. and 35th Street)
Los Angeles, CA 90089
The Pacific Institute for Women's Health, the UCLA Bixby Program in Population and Reproductive Health, and WYSE (Women and Youth Supporting Each Other), with additional support from Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, The California Wellness Foundation and the Hollywood Teen Community Project, are hosting a conference to share experiences in empowering youth to achieve optimal reproductive health, both domestically and internationally. Participants at the conference will also help develop a policy directive promoting a comprehensive approach to adolescent reproductive and sexual health that will be publicized broadly. The conference will bring together researchers, NGOs and health providers to share best practices in sexuality education and service delivery, to present research supporting the impact of comprehensive education on adolescent sexual behavior, and to solidify a network that can exert pressure on policymakers at the state, national and international levels. Featured presenters include: Dr. Douglas Kirby of ETR Associates; Dr. Claire Brindis of the University of California at San Francisco; Dr. Mark Schuster of the UCLA/RAND Center for Adolescent Health Promotion; Dr. Sharon Camp, President of the Alan Guttmacher Institute; and James Wagoner, President of Advocates for Youth.
In the past decade, significant gains have been realized in health education programs and services for youth. Civil society groups and youth advocates have succeeded in convincing many governments and international organizations that youth have a right to reproductive health information and skills-building to become productive adults. Youth rights are now explicit in the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals. However, implementation remains limited and challenged.
While some progress has been made, there still is much to do. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 900,000 women in the United States under age 20 become pregnant each year, 80% of these pregnancies are unintended, four million teens acquire a sexually-transmitted infection (STI) each year, and two young people are newly infected with HIV every hour. The United States continues to have one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the developed world, and American teens have extremely high rates of STI infections compared to teenagers from other developed countries. Yet politicians, educators, parents and NGOs cannot agree on how to educate youth about sexuality and reproductive health and improve their access to services. Conservative religious movements continue to polarize the debate by insisting in excluding information on condoms and other effective contraceptives from education to adolescents. Studies have shown that adolescents are less likely to use protection while having sex when they are given limited information on the practice of safe sex, such as condoms and oral contraceptives. There have been no studies demonstrating that abstinence-only programs are effective in reducing sexual activity, unintended pregnancy or STI/AIDS in the long run.
Opposition to comprehensive sexuality education asserts that it promotes promiscuity, despite research that proves that these programs are effective in reducing unintended pregnancy and STI/AIDS transmission. Despite research showing the effectiveness of comprehensive sexuality education, the current U.S. administration has chosen instead to allocate $117 million in federal funds for abstinence only programs in 2003. States that choose to teach comprehensive sexuality education, like California, must find state funds to continue the programs. Due to the economic situation facing the United States, many states are opting for abstinence only programs to access federal funds. This trend leaves youth to enter adulthood with inadequate, biased information to make wise decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.
At the international level, there is yet another major barrier to youth sexual and reproductive health: the current policy known as the Global Gag Rule (or Mexico City policy), which prohibits assistance for family planning from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to foreign NGOs that use funding from any source to perform abortions, provide counseling or referrals about abortion, or to lobby for the practice. Youth organizations and educators in less developed countries across the globe depend on USAID for significant portions of their program funding. Withdrawal of USAID funding often means that critical reproductive and sexual health services, including HIV prevention, cannot continue. For instance, in Zambia where abortion is legal, the leading family planning organization lost 24 percent of its funding and was forced to cut crucial service to rural areas because of its refusal to sign the Gag Rule. As a result of lack of funds, unwanted pregnancies rise, leading to an increase of unsafe abortions and maternal deaths. In less developed countries, especially in Africa, the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services represents a looming health crisis for youth. The status of youth in Uganda and Zimbabwe is an example. Of all Ugandans living with HIV/AIDS, 46% are in the age group 10-24 years. Uganda also has one of the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Zimbabwe, young women age 15-24 represent more than 66% of HIV infections.
The restrictions on reproductive health--both in the United States and overseas--call for concerted advocacy efforts from proponents of comprehensive education and services, especially for youth. Action and visibility at the policy level will balance the current misperception that abstinence-only education is the prevailing view. It is also necessary for providers and educators to share tools and models that are effective in reaching youth with comprehensive information, thereby decreasing teenage pregnancy, STIs, HIV and unsafe abortion.
The Pacific Institute and the Bixby Program both possess solid experience in research, program development and evaluation in adolescent sexual and reproductive health locally and internationally. All three organizations are active in advocacy efforts on youth initiatives locally and internationally. The conference will include plenary speakers, case studies and workshops for skill-building in best practices in adolescent sexual and reproductive health. During the one and a half day conference, participants will finalize a policy statement and action plan for additional advocacy activities to extend comprehensive sexuality education.
Parking--Parking is reserved at the Figueroa Street Parking Plaza (Lot PSX), on Figueroa Street between Jefferson Blvd and Exposition Blvd. Parking is $6.00 per day.
For more information about the conference, contact one of the organizers:
Magaly Marques, MA
Pacific Institute for Women's Health
Tel: (213) 386-2600
Los Angeles, CA
Susana M. Caceres
Tel: (213) 488-4942
Los Angeles, CA
Paula Tavrow, PhD
UCLA Bixby Program in Population and Reproductive Health
Tel: (310) 794-4302
Los Angeles, CA
Date: Friday, April 16, 2004
Time: Time to be announced. - 12:45 AM
Los Angeles, CA 90095