As a parent of young children, I see it as one of my prime responsibilities to educate my children about their sexual health.
But the state of New York may mandate HIV tests for 13-year-olds. I think this is something best left to parents.
Some parents may disagree with me, but I’m one of those mothers who doesn’t think that sexual health is something that should never be addressed by the state. But mandatory HIV testing for 13-year-olds, even if their parents have objections, goes too far.
I do recognize that there are serious problems. The publication of the first ever New York State Youth Sexual Health Plan shows that there are serious and troubling issues to be faced by all families, when it comes to young people and sexual activity. For example, the study found that:
· One in four adolescents is likely to acquire an STD. This rises to one in two for sexually active people by age 25.
· Chlamydia is the most commonly reported communicable disease in New York State with more than 100,000 cases reported in 2012. Statistics show nearly two out of three cases are among youth ages 15-24 and one out of three are aged 15-19.
· Gonorrhea is the third-most commonly reported STD in New York State with more than 22,000 cases reported in 2012. One out of two of these cases were among youth aged 15-24.
· There were 3,306 newly diagnosed cases of HIV infection in 2012. One in five cases was among individuals under the age of 25.
· There were 12,733 births to women 19 years of age or younger in 2012, with 29 percent of this group aged 17 or younger.
Trouble is that the way to address these problems isn’t to cut parents out, which is what many of the suggested remedies seem intent on doing. A look at the suggested remedies for the study’s findings reveals a host of state-sponsored activities that many parents will find extremely objectionable.
Even some sophisticated big city parents balk at the idea of HIV testing for 13 year-olds. As New York City father of three Joshua Stillman put it:
I work around teenagers and the vast majority of them at 13, when I ask them if they’re sexually active, look at me like, ‘Are you crazy?’…. And to put HIV testing on the plate in front of them, I think, would be not only weird for them, but probably make them think about something that’s not anywhere close to their consciousness.
It is also important to note that New York State did away with any abstinence education in 2007. The Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms — a nonprofit Christian lobbying organization — is worried about pushing parents aside in the state’s zeal for top-down problem-solving:
The Department of Health oversteps its authority when it comes between a parent and their child. New York state bureaucrats will define age-appropriate sex education for kindergartners far differently than the average parent," he said. "Health Department officials would be better off encouraging stronger relationships between parents and their children, than encouraging youth to turn to peer-counselor classmates for sexual counsel.