Example Letter to Senator Regarding STD Prevention
Ms. Senator, In order to better prepare you for your decision regarding the abstinence-only sex education funding, let me provide you with some background information about sexually transmitted diseases
(STDs). Once you have a clear understanding about STDs, I will compare the costs, benefits and effectiveness of the abstinence-only programs versus safe-sex programs. As soon these issues are explained I will present a recommendation for your vote on the issue.
The term sexually transmitted disease encompasses a large variety of diseases, all of which have two similar characteristics. In order to be classified as an STD, a disease must be both contagious and have the ability to spread through sexual contact (Campbell 2004). All STDs fall into 1 of 4 categories: viral, bacterial, protozoan and fungal (Campbell 2004). Modern medicine currently can generally cure all of these STD types except the viral type (Campbell 2004). Some of the major viral STDs affecting the U.S. include genital herpes, genital warts, AIDS and HIV infection (Campbell 2004). The most common bacterial, protozoan or fungal STDs in the U.S. are chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, trichomoniasis and yeast infections (Campbell 2004).
Although many forms of STDs can be cured, STDs still remain a major public health concern according to the Center for Disease Control, or the CDC (Trends 2005). In the 2004 STD Surveillance Report, the center reports that STDs not only causing substantial health problems to victims in the U.S., but considerable psychological and financial expenses as well. One estimate found in this article suggests that medical costs associated with STDs total 13 billion dollars annually (Trends 2005). Despite the progress made in the U.S. in terms of diagnosing and treating many types of STDs, the CDC estimates that there are still 19 million new infections each year, with almost half of these infections occurring in people ages 15-24 (Trends 2005).
Now that you have some of the relevant information regarding this issue, I will discuss and compare the two programs that are attempting to prevent the spreading of STDs. In 2004, the federal government funded three programs which were dedicated to teaching the benefits of abstinence-only behavior to teens (Fact 2004). In accordance with federal regulation, these programs are designed to educate teens on the basics of sexual intercourse, while promoting the benefits of abstinence. These programs receive more than 165 million a year in federal grants, funds, and resources (Fact 2004). The primary benefit of these programs is that they focus on abstinence which is biologically and scientifically more effective for avoiding STDs than any contraceptive (Campbell 2004).
Additionally, in recent years one study shows teen sex rates dropping from 54 percent in 1991 to 47 percent in 2003 (Maher 2005). However, this progress can not be solely attributed to abstinence-only programs, as other comprehensive sexual education programs have contributed to this accomplishment (Fact 2004). In fact, even though abstinence programs have demonstrated effectiveness in the delaying of sexual intercourse, studies have shown that federally funded abstinence-only programs either neglect to teach about the use of contraceptives, or censor vital information about these resources (Fact 2004). The instructors neglect to present this information because they fear increased failure rates in abstinent-only programs as a result of teaching about the benefits of contraception (Fact 2004). Studies by such groups as the CDC have shown that teens who were involved in abstinence-only programs are statistically less likely to use contraception during intercourse and therefore increase their chances of transmitting/receiving infection as a result (Fact 2004).
According to the Heritage Research Organization, over 653 million dollars was spent on the federal government for safe-sex or contraceptive programs in 2002 (Pardue 2004). Through examination of these program types, the biggest downfall is that studies have shown that teens may leave with the idea that it is acceptable to have sexual relations (Federal 1997). However, many safe-sex programs around the country teach abstinence as a possible solution for avoiding STDs, in addition to other contraceptive methods (Federal 1997). This allows for safe-sex program to utilize the benefits of abstinence and contraception. The primary benefit of contraceptive programs is they have been scientifically proven to be more effective than abstinent-only programs in terms of lowering the chances of risky sexual behavior (NIH 2004). This idea has gained strong support in the scientific community by agencies such as The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Medical Association (AMA) (Fact 2004). For example, in 1997, an independent panel (convened by the NIH) released scientific studies which concluded that safe-sex programs are more effective in reducing precarious sexual behavior in both teen and adult populations (NIH 2004). This outcome is attributed by researchers to the ability of comprehensive safe-sex programs to delay the first instance of intercourse, reduce the total number of sexual partners, and increase rate of contraceptive usage among teens (Fact 2004). Furthermore, studies have shown that the majority of parents and teachers desire for their kids to receive information about the use of contraceptives.
After analyzing the data concerning this case, I recommend eliminating federal funding for abstinence-only programs. Based on the facts, the money allocated to these programs would be better spent on safe-sex education (NIH 2004). This idea is backed by an overwhelming majority of parents and teachers, as well as many of the largest health organizations and scientific communities in the U.S. (Fact 2004). In conclusion, it is our responsibility to protect the youth from the dangers of STDs. To do this we must equip them with the tools necessary to make informed decisions. Science has proven the most effective way of achieving this goal is through the use comprehensive safe-sex programs.