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Normandy High's HIV Scare: Advocates Question Lack Of Sex Education

October 28, 2008

St. Louis, MO - The high-profile HIV scare in St. Louis has brought sexual health education front and center in Missouri. Normandy High School has identified 50 students at risk for the exposure to the HIV virus. Students are still being tested and results should start coming back later this week.

Free HIV testing is available for area high school students now through November, from Planned Parenthood of St. Louis. CEO Paula Gianino says it's sad that it has taken a tragedy to bring HIV to the attention of the public.

"The most important message for all individuals who are sexually active is to get tested. If you've had a sexually transmitted infection, you have potentially put yourself at risk for HIV exposure."

This year, the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention reported one in four teenaged girls in the United States has been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection. For the past three years, Planned Parenthood has tried to pass legislation that would include comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education in Missouri schools. Gianino worries that lack of such education puts more young adults at risk.

"We haven't been committed to taking advantage of this time in a young person's life, in high school, to make sure that they have access to information that can save their life."

Health advocates are concerned about a silent, growing epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, says Gianino. Planned Parenthood will submit the "Prevention First Act" to Missouri legislators again in January.

Laura Thornquist/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - MO