Originally created 05/11/04

Hands off!



Sex sells, and teenage hormones run wild, so it can be hard to resist the urge to have sex.

"I don't think a lot of people plan to do it; it's the heat of the moment," said Asunsheya Sheppard, 17, a junior at Academy of Richmond County and a member of Teens Relating Information By Educating. "I think they just get caught up in the moment."

Teens get so caught up that they put themselves at risk for unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, said Brian Stevenson, 18. Many teens are unaware that waiting to have sex can be the best weapon against those dangers, said Mr. Stevenson, a senior at Richmond Academy.

"Abstinence is the only sure, 100 percent way to avoid pregnancy and STDs," he explained. "Condoms can break and pills can fail."

It's a message he and other members of TRIBE will share with hundreds of youths at the Abstinence Symposium, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Butler High School on Lumpkin Road. The event is sponsored by East Central Health District 6 and the Richmond County Health Department.

"(Youths) need to be educated about abstinence, and they need to know that abstinence is a real choice and a very important choice," said Mary Stacy, the youth development coordinator for the health district.

Unfortunately, some teens are unaware of that choice, said Chequitta Jones, 18.

"Many people think they have to have sex," the Westside High School senior and member of TRIBE said. "They feel it's necessary to have sex. Between peer pressure and friends doing it, them seeing it in the videos and hearing about it, they feel they have no choice."

It is estimated that more than a million teenagers get pregnant each year in the United States.

Asunsheya said she sees the proof of that every day.

"It's like every other week somebody's pregnant," she said. "It's sad, really."

And preventable, Mr. Stevenson said, if teens would think of what could happen.

"It's like people don't take it seriously," he said. "They don't look to the future. They don't look at the outcome.

"Actions have consequences and they don't really know what the consequences are. They think, 'It's not going to happen to me. I'm invincible,'" he said, adding, "This stuff is real and it can and will happen to you if you're not careful. You can get an STD, you can get a girl pregnant and you can make your life difficult."

Too often that's the afterthought, Ms. Jones said.

"They think to keep their companion they need to do it in order to be affectionate, but there are other ways to be affectionate. Other things you can do," she said.

That includes couples talking about boundaries.

"If you and your partner are so close that you can have sex, then you should be so close to say, 'I'm not ready for this,'" she said. "And just because you've had sex before doesn't mean you have to keep having it."

Choosing abstinence is no easy choice, but it's a choice Brittany Brown, 16, said she has made based on her convictions and common sense.

"I just have too much going for me to get pregnant," said the sophomore at John S. Davidson Fine Arts School.

"Some people just don't know what (diseases are) out there. I think a lot of people would do different if they knew what was out there."

Shawndrea Boler, 17, a junior at A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School, is one of the knowledgeable people: "I think of the consequences. I don't want to put my mom through that pressure of me getting pregnant. I don't want to put my family through that, or myself."

WANT TO GO?

What: I've Got the Power ... To Choose Abstinence Symposium, sponsored by East Central Health District 6 and the Richmond County Health Department

Where: Butler High School, 2011 Lumpkin Road

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

Activities: Free food, door prizes, entertainment and education sessions for both teens and parents

Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or kamille.bostick@augustachronicle.com.