Forum targets reducing Nevada teen pregnancies

A health quiz asked which of the following couldn’t spread HIV: blood, breast milk, sperm or saliva.

Miriam Cadenas, 17, knew the answer, saliva, but her teacher at Clark High School told her she was wrong.

“He didn’t believe me — so I told him to Google it,” Cadenas said, talking on Thursday to a crowd of about 55 people at the Southern Nevada Teen Pregnancy Coalition’s annual forum, held at North Las Vegas City Hall. The forum sought to get community leaders engaged in reducing the rate of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

HIV cannot be spread by saliva.

Cadenas told the group that seeing pregnant teens in her high school is sad because it seems that those students either don’t know how to protect themselves or are ashamed to ask questions.

“Not only are we — as community leaders, as community partners — asking for comprehensive sex education, our youth is also asking for it. They need this information,” said Brenda Aguilar, vice chairwoman of the coalition.

Aguilar presented national and local statistics, noting that Nevada ranks 44 out of 50 when it comes to teen pregnancy rates, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2010 comparison data. Nevada’s teen pregnancy rate was reported as 68 per 1,000 girls.

According to preliminary data from Southern Nevada Health District, zip codes with the highest birth rates for girls ages 15-19 are 89030, 89115 and 89110.

Samantha Fredrickson of Planned Parenthood told the group that Nevada needs to pass a comprehensive sex education bill. Fredrickson said writing standards for sex education into the law would increase accountability and improve students’ knowledge, which would lower pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates. A bill that would have mandated that sex education be medically accurate and age appropriate passed the Assembly but died in the Senate during the 2013 session.

There is a need for improvement in sex education and to address this the Clark County School District is seeking input from the community by holding its own invite-only forums, said Shannon LaNeve, Clark County School District curriculum coordinator health, physical education and driver education, during her presentation at the forum.

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