|Spring 2012 Newsletter|
Feature: Millennials and a Sexually Healthy Nation
During the next few months we'll be posting blogs about Millennial viewpoints—who they are, what they do, and how their attitudes and beliefs are shaping our world. In fact, our first blog post was just published on Politico. Check it out, share it out, and comment. Also, please check out our new website section on www.advocatesforyouth.org/millennials about Millennials. It's brimming with facts, polling data, and amazing infographics.
Millennials, young people 30 and under, are coming of age in a world vastly different from that of their parents and grandparents. The Millennial generation is diverse, technologically savvy, open minded, and committed to sexual health and rights. In fact, this generation may just be the most pro-sexual health generation in U.S. history and has the potential to put America on course to become a truly sexually healthy nation.
Federal Policy Update#BC4US: A Groundswell of Student Activism to Protect Access to Birth Control
Advocates for Youth staff present the book of Birth Control Valentines to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
The year 2012 has been characterized by the resurgence of a debate most people thought had ended over 40 years ago: the discussion of whether or not birth control is basic health care for women. Never mind that 99 percent of women and even 98 percent of Catholic women have used birth control in their lifetimes; social conservatives and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops continue to attempt to assert the will of a tiny minority over the lived reality of the vast majority, campaigning against the Obama administration's mandate that birth control be covered by insurance, and even against a compromise that would require insurance companies, not employers, to pay for birth control. But activists like you weren't going to let the anti-birth-control lobby have the final say.
In February, in support of birth control, you sent thousands of petitions, organized hundreds of events, and submitted over 1200 Valentines to Congress to demand that they stand up for birth control. And you were heard: on March 1, Congress voted down the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed employers to refuse to cover any kind of preventive health coverage for any "moral" reason. Two weeks later the Obama administration announced that it stands with young people across the country: college student health care plans will have to cover contraception.
Your commitment to birth control access for all women made these victories possible and brought us one step closer to no-copay birth control for all young people. Now, the fight moves on to implementation and ensuring that affordable access to birth control becomes a reality.
U.S. Foreign Policy Update
Advocates for Youth Releases New Report on PEPFAR
The global HIV and AIDS strategy is at a turning point. We have witnessed dramatic scientific advances in the fight against the pandemic, spurring renewed hope that the end of AIDS is in sight. President Obama and Secretary Clinton recently delivered major speeches announcing new targets and goals for achieving an “AIDS-free generation.” Yet globally, young people continue to account for four in ten new infections and those directing the U.S. effort to combat the epidemic are not taking the bold steps necessary to match the inspiring vision outlined by the President and the Secretary of State. Rather than building a firewall of prevention around the largest youth generation in the world's history, the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC) is pursuing a limited, politically safe approach that downplays the sexual health needs and rights of youth throughout the world.
In a newly-released report, Advocates for Youth analyzes youth policies within the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR
The first-of-its-kind report finds that while there are promising advances for youth sexual and reproductive health in PEPFAR’s second phase, progress is being significantly hampered by a siloed, segmented approach to prevention that fails to address the holistic needs of youth or to engage young people themselves as partners in prevention. In addition, the report notes a tepid commitment within OGAC to the rights of young people to the information and education they need to protect their health and lives in the era of AIDS. The report concludes with a set of recommendations for the U.S. Congress, OGAC, and Partner Country governments, to design and implement the bold policy needed to support youth sexual and reproductive health and rights, including promotion of comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly, integrated, HIV and family planning services.
For the full report: http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/pepfar
International Policy Update
Advocates for Youth’s Time is Now Campaign, focused on the intersection of reproductive rights and climate change, has just launched a new petition! The goal of the petition is to raise awareness about the importance of addressing youth sexual and reproductive health and rights during negotiations and discussions leading up to and at the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development Conference, otherwise known as the Rio +20 Conference, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this June.
The petition calls upon the Rio+20 Secretary General, Sha Zukang, and Executive Coordinators, Elizabeth Thompson (former Minister of Environment Barbados) and Ambassador Brice Lalonde (former Minister of Environment France) to leverage their leadership to recognize the importance of youth sexual and reproductive health and rights to sustainable development in the Rio+20 discussions; reaffirm the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Program of Action, which provides a policy framework and guidelines for sustainable development by addressing sexual and reproductive health and rights, including for youth; support the inclusion of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in the outcome document being negotiated for the Rio+20 meeting; and urge member states to include youth sexual and reproductive health and rights advocates on their country delegations for the meeting.
To find out more about the petition and the campaign, go to The Time is Now Campaign website at: www.amplifyyourvoice.org/thetimeisnow. There, you can read about the campaign, sing the petition, download a hard copy of the petition to circulate to friends and family, and blog about it too.
State Policy Update
As of March 27, 2012, 32 states and the District of Columbia are in their regular 2012 legislative session. Bills related to both abortion and sex education have made headlines in a number of states. Even though the state policy landscape can often seem bleak for youth sexual health and rights.
In December of 2011, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA’s recommendation that the emergency contraception pill Plan B OneStep be permitted to be sold over the counter. Sebelius expressed concern that younger teens and pre-teens were not cognitively advanced enough to use the product without talking to a health care professional. Research published in April’s issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology explored the potential misunderstanding of how to use Plan B by providing an EC product to young women who requested it at a clinic, but not providing further instruction, simply allowing them to read the label. Researchers found that 92 percent of the women in the study correctly selected to use or not use the product, and 93 percent used it according to the instructions on the label. They also found that correct use of the product was not associated with age. That is, a 13 year old was as capable of assessing her need for EC, and taking EC, as was a 17 year old.
Researchers observe that only 3 percent of young people initiate sexual activity before age 13, so therefore, the study’s age range represents the majority of youth ages 17 and under who are in need of emergency contraception. (And, even if participants did use the product incorrectly, it would not cause harm beyond the product’s typical side effects of headache and nausea; Plan B does not harm an established pregnancy.)
Meanwhile, additional recent research found that some pharmacists provide misinformation about EC: in a study in the journal Pediatrics, one-fifth told callers they believed to be 17 years old that they could not access emergency contraception, and 43 percent gave incorrect information about at what age teens can acquire EC without a prescription. While pharmacists can be great partners in helping young people access emergency contraception, if they don’t have correct information they create a barrier: a barrier that would not exist if emergency contraception were available over the counter. Common sense says young women can decide if they need EC, and they can take Plan B OneStep’s one pill correctly – and science says so too.
Check out Advocates for Youth’s Research Center for frequently-updated guides to research on many issues around youth reproductive and sexual health.
Program Spotlight: International Division
Advocates’ staff recently traveled to the southern province of Sissili in Burkina Faso to provide assistance to its youth-friendly services program that is serving the town of Leo, in collaboration with Mwanga Action and l ‘Association des Jeunes du Département de Leo. Staff met with 20 peer educators who are providing sexual and reproductive health and rights information and referrals to young people in the community; lead facilitators of the youth association tasked with community mobilization efforts; health providers who recently participated in the program’s youth-friendly services training; school teachers who are also working with the program and have stepped up by wanting to provide sex education in their schools; and community leaders, local stakeholders, and government officials who have been providing in-kind support and working collaboratively on the program.
While there are many challenges to young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services in the province, the Ministry of Health expressed their commitment to replicate the youth-friendly service training that was conducted in Leo in 9 more sectors of the province and to use this program as a model for follow-up. Next steps for the current work in Leo include: 1) establishing regular meetings between the peer educators, service providers, and teachers, to support a youth-adult partnership approach to problem solving and leveraging efforts to make sexual and reproductive health services more youth-friendly and strengthen referral networks; 2) collecting data on use of sexual and reproductive health services by young people; and 3) adapting two brochures from Advocates’ youth-friendly services work in Nigeria--one that informs young people about their rights as clients of services and how to access these while the other informs health providers of what they can do to make services more youth-friendly.
Seven International Youth Bloggers will Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Issues in 2012
Would you like to make a more substantial gift to Advocates for Youth, but don’t feel you have the resources to do so during your lifetime? You can now leave a lasting legacy by including Advocates for Youth in your will or estate plans.
Your will is one of the most important documents you will ever create, yet more than half of adult Americans report they do not have one. A will not only ensures that your property and heirlooms will be distributed to those you love upon your death, but it makes certain that the right person handles your estate, your children will be cared for by whomever you designate to be their guardian, your death taxes will be minimized, and you can continue to give back to your favorite cause(s).
Obtaining a will is as simple as contacting your attorney or local bar association. Costs are generally reasonable, but will vary depending on the nature of your plans and the size of your estate. When remembering your favorite charity in your will or estate plans, you have many different options, including providing a lump sum, a percentage of your estate, or even the remainder of your estate after all other debts, taxes, expenses, and bequests have been paid.
If you make a planned gift to Advocates for Youth, you will become a part of our Legacy Circle. Members receive biannual presidential updates, invitations to special events, and their name listed in our annual report and on Advocates’ organizational website. Most importantly, you help ensure that our work will continue to affect young people for many generations to come.
Donor Spotlight: Sarah G. Epstein
“I grew up believing that every child should be a wanted child. My father, Dr. Clarence J. Gamble, was an advisor to [reproductive rights activist] Margaret Sanger, and the founder of Pathfinder International. As a volunteer at Planned Parenthood and in my overseas travel, I have recognized that youth everywhere - including those served by Advocates for Youth - need early, sensitive counseling about life goals, information about contraception, and reproductive health services. I have been familiar with Advocates for Youth since its inception, and I believe that focusing on and representing youth is vital because they are the future of our country."
Resources and Opportunities
Advocates is delighted to announce the launch of YAN101, a series of online education modules on topics in adolescent reproductive and sexual health. In the era of abstinence-only programs, and in a culture where shame and fear around sexuality are the norm, too many of us didn't get enough info about sex, sexuality, and relationships. An advocate for sexual health and rights needs a solid grasp of the facts, not only to make their arguments credible, but also because they often serve as a resource for friends who need their questions answered. That’s why we created this series of lessons on contraception, LGBT issues, HIV, and more. Young people ages 13-24 who take all the modules and pass the final test will become Certified YAN 101 Activists!
In January, four leading health organizations released the first-ever national standards for sexuality education in schools. Published in the Journal of School Health, the ground-breaking National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12 provide clear, consistent, and straightforward guidance on the essential minimum, core content for sexuality education that is developmentally and age-appropriate for students in grades Kindergarten through grade 12.
The standards focus on seven topics as the minimum, essential content and skills for K–12 education: Anatomy and Physiology, Puberty and Adolescent Development, Identity, Pregnancy and Reproduction, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV, Healthy Relationships, and Personal Safety. Topics are presented using performance indicators—what students should know and be able to do by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, and 12—and are based on the National Health Education Standards.
Visit the Advocates for Youth Online Shop
Check out Advocates for Youth’s newly launched online shop for factsheets, training materials, brochures for young people, and more!