Program uses teens to talk to teens about sex

The last person a teen wants to hear from is an adult. About anything. Especially sex. But the topic still needs to be addressed somehow at some point and before it is too late.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, which provides sexuality education to more than 6,000 people each year, thought what better way to reach such a key audience than by using the one resource teens might pay attention to – their own peers. In 2010, the agency piloted a clinic- based program that employs youth as health educators and uses them to provide information on sexual and reproductive health.

Through the program, youth ages 14 to 24 provide one-on-one education to teen patients who visit two of the agency’s family planning clinics – Northwest Health Center on Fond du Lac Avenue and the Mitchell Street Health Center on South 7th Street. The youth educators receive extensive training in confidentiality and how to provide medically accurate and unbiased information. Youth educators are then able to talk to teen patients about different birth control methods, sexually transmitted diseases, correct condom use and healthy relationships.

Youth educators have found their peers are not the only ones who benefit from the information. Semaj Battle, a 19 year old who works as a youth educator, said he learned more about the risks and health issues that came along with sex and realized there were a lot more teens out there than he thought who were unaware of the risks that awaited them by having sex.

Ultimately, program staff hopes the program is able to help promote safer sex behaviors among teens so they will be less likely to become pregnant or contract a sexually transmitted disease. The highest incidences of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are concentrated in the Milwaukee area, which prompted Planned Parenthood to start the program there, but it plans to expand it to its other clinics statewide.

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Funding needs include:

$500 provides support for training materials

$2,000 provides printing and materials for teen clinic outreach and promotion

$4,800 provides volunteer incentives for youth volunteer health promoters

$10,000 provides the salary for two youth health educators for one year