Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sex Ed? How About Spiritual Ed?

Ghanaian kids play before their Baha'i children's class begins.

The New York Times offers more evidence that it's hard out here for a sista:

"The first national study of four common sexually transmitted diseases among girls and young women has found that one in four are infected with at least one of the diseases, federal health officials reported Tuesday.

Nearly half the African-Americans in the study of teenagers ages 14 to 19 were infected with at least one of the diseases monitored in the study — human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, genital herpes and trichomoniasis, a common parasite.

The 50 percent figure compared with 20 percent of white teenagers, health officials and researchers said at a news conference at a scientific meeting in Chicago.

The two most common sexually transmitted diseases, or S.T.D.’s, among all the participants tested were HPV, at 18 percent, and chlamydia, at 4 percent, according to the analysis, part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Each disease can be serious in its own way. HPV, for example, can cause cancer and genital warts.

Among the infected women, 15 percent had more than one of the diseases.

Women may be unaware they are infected. But the diseases, which are infections caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites, can produce acute symptoms like irritating vaginal discharge, painful pelvic inflammatory disease and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy. The infections can also lead to longterm ailments like infertility and cervical cancer."

So a whole lot of young women, most of whom are black are getting completely preventable diseases that can have long lasting, even fatal health consequences. What is recommended to address this problem? Take a look:

"Officials of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the findings underscored the need to strengthen screening, vaccination and other prevention measures for the diseases, which are among the highest public health priorities."

At least one person appears happy about the results of the study. Why? Politics:

"The president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Cecile Richards, said the new findings “emphasize the need for real comprehensive sex education.”

“The national policy of promoting abstinence-only programs is a $1.5 billion failure,” Ms. Richards said, “and teenage girls are paying the real price.”"

Read the whole article here

Not a single word in the article suggesting that just maybe there might be a spiritual and moral dimension to this problem. When I say spiritual and moral, I'm not just talking about the behavior of these young women (or the boys who are often invisible in these discussions) but also the behavior of those who have the greatest influence over the social context in which these young women live (the privileged and powerful in our society). This includes the prevailing ideologies, cultural norms and social structures which were set in place long before these kids were even born. No condom ever made has proven itself powerful enough to address these fundamental issues, nor has so called sex education. How many of our young will we sacrifice before we figure that out?

"The dilemma is both artificial and self-inflicted. The world order, if it can be so described, within which Bahá'ís today pursue the work of sharing Bahá'u'lláh's message is one whose misconceptions about both human nature and social evolution are so fundamental as to severely inhibit the most intelligent and well-intentioned endeavours at human betterment."
(Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, One Common Faith)