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Teenage Birthrate Declining in US Both Abstinence and Awareness Called for to Maintain the Trend

ucational efforts -- primarily through after school programs and community centers -- in underserved urban communities. Many of those programs, he says, wisely take an integrated and holistic approach to preventing teen pregnancy.

But Libby Gray Macke who runs the wide-reaching abstinence program Project Reality believes that HIV-prevention education might actually be behind the spike in teen pregnancy close to two decades ago. At the time, Macke says, kids were given a green light on sex -- as long as condoms were used. That message, she claims, simply did not prevent teen pregnancy.

Abstinence education, on the other hand, is working, Macke says. And adults are wrong to think that kids don't buy into it. "Teenagers are savvier. They know that condoms may or may not protect them, and abstinence is a more realistic option."

No sex until you swap vows. No genital touching. No mutual masturbation. Even kissing can quickly escalate into below the neckline activity.

Holding out for a ring may seem like a ludicrous campaign in a society where as high as 95 percent of the population has sex before marriage. But Macke stresses that it is the only guarantee against unwanted pregnancy and STDs.

But what about gays and lesbians who may never get to marry? How are they to protect themselves if crucial information is to be withheld from them, ask others.

"We need to be very clear with the message of protection, whether young people use it today or in the future," Rodriguez says. "Condoms aren't perfect, but they are way more effective than not using a condom at all."

"We don't advocate for contraceptives," rebuts Macke and adds rather primly, "It is important teenagers receive pure message."

The federal government has been supporting abstinence-only programming since the Reagan administration. But in 1996, the amount of support took a big leap. Through the Title V Welfare Reform Act, the
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