Abstinence class to be offered

Posted: October 24, 2012

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Area health officials are offering an abstinence education program for any sixth-grade student in the region.

The Lord Fairfax Health District, which covers Winchester and the counties of Frederick, Clarke, Warren, Page and Shenandoah, will teach the six-class series, titled “Choosing the Best.”

The series is free and will be held Nov. 5, 7, 12, 14, 19 and 26 from 4 to 5 p.m. at National Counseling Group Inc., 600 Pegasus Court, Suite 100, in Frederick County.

Besides teaching that abstinence is the best choice, instructors will offer age-appropriate insight into students’ changing bodies and emotions and their interest in the opposite sex.

“The idea is to prolong the time until their first intercourse and then prolong the time between subsequent intercourse and to reduce the number of sexual partners,” said health director Charlie Devine. “We don’t know if abstinence education is the best way, but we suspect abstinence is the only approach acceptable to certain communities of people.”

According to Devine, the incidence of sexual activity is reduced by 30 percent in the two years after a student takes an abstinence education program, compared to students who take a safe-sex class or no class at all.

The 2011 preliminary teen pregnancy rate for the state is 18.6 pregnancies per 1,000 females age 10-19. In Winchester, that rate is 23.1; in Frederick County, 15.3; and Clarke County, 7.6.

The rate of teen pregnancies has been trending downward in the area since 2007, when Winchester had a rate of 62. Devine credits this to increased education.

“Wherever we lie, we want to improve our performance,” Devine said. “We seem to be better than other regions of the state, but we’d like to see it better.”

Devine said the program is not a replacement for the sex education the students receive in their schools.

The health district is able to pay for the program with a $64,133 Abstinence Education state grant. Health officials will also offer abstinence classes for seventh- and eighth-grade students in the near future.

Classes will be taught by Karen Farnsworth, the district’s health educator. She will be assisted by the district’s medical interpreter, a public health nurse, and others.

To register, contact Farnsworth at the LFHD at 540-722-3489 or karen.farnsworth@vdh.virginia.gov.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com