Originally Published: May 11, 2003 10 a.m.
"We educate youths because they think of this one minute of passion without thinking of the consequences," she said.
There are physical, financial and emotional effects of having teen sex, DeLong said, and "they need to know that there's layers of consequences. If you think it won't happen to you, maybe you're right, you may be the lucky one. But there's no guarantee of that."
She added, "sometimes kids just don't get it. They think, 'it's not gonna happen to me.'"
Young girls who are afraid they might be pregnant or have an STD and are too afraid to talk with their parents about it can get tested at the health department without the permission of their parents, DeLong said.
Through her personal experience working with sexually active teen-agers and recent research, she knows that "most teens who have sex wish they would have waited."
Beth Kaper, a health educator at TAPP, said that a lot of times, kids' families talk to them about sex and the reasons they should wait until marriage.
When those kids go against what they're taught, they tend to "distance themselves from family and friends who always told them not to," Kaper added.
Another reason she said they might become lonely is because sometimes the "girl thought she was in love and it meant nothing to (the guy)."
This combination of "guilt and disappointment equals depression."
When Kaper heads into local schools, both junior high and high schools, to talk to students about sex, she said she has them talk about and write down their life goals.
"I tell them, 'you can't accomplish these goals if you have to support a baby,'" she said.
She also conducts "proactive activities which gets them to think about situations before they happen."
One of the most important focuses of her presentations is communication. She talks to students about healthy relationships versus unhealthy relationships, infatuation versus love and "the difference between being in love and having someone sleep with you and then leave you."
She said it is essential for young people to be able to talk to each other about whether or not they've had sex or sexual relations with other people.
Kaper said, "teen-agers need to know how to talk because they need to ask each other if they've had any other genital contact, and if they have, they need to get tested."
While it may be embarrassing for both people, Kaper asks the question, "'what's more embarrassing, talking for 10 minutes or telling someone you're pregnant or have an STD?'"
Kaper pointed out that one out of every four sexually active youth will contract an STD, and "to me, that's pretty alarming."
Common STDs include gonorrhea, genital warts, herpes, chlamydia, AIDS and syphilis. Kaper said that during her presentations, she has large, blown- up pictures of STDs.
"You can talk about these different diseases and write them on the board, but then it's just a bunch of weird words," DeLong said. "(Pictures) are the one thing that opens their eyes because it becomes real."
One of the major problems these days, DeLong said, is that parents aren't talking about sex with their kids. A lot of times, parents rely on the schools to teach their kids about it.
"We live in a society that doesn't like to talk about sex," she said. "We're just trying to teach kids about being healthy and making good choices."
According to a 2001 "Advance Vital Statistics by County of Residence, Arizona," this state has the third-highest teen birth rate in the nation and Yavapai County is the 13th lowest out of the 15 counties. Also, Arizona has the highest school dropout rate in the nation.
DeLong said there is no way to determine why certain areas are more prone to teen-age pregnancy, but the best way to correct the problem is educating kids and helping them make the right choices.
The best way to stay away from the potentially harmful consequences of having sex at a young age, DeLong and Kaper said, is abstinence, which is something they teach and encourage kids to practice.
DeLong said that even if a teen feels they made a mistake by having sex, there is "secondary virginity. If you've had sex once, you don't have to do it again. If you don't think it's for you, then start over."
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