- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2003

Sometimes, it’s what we don’t say that most hurts our children. So, speak up. A question for you. Is having oral sex considered having sex?

That’s not a trick question, but be careful how you answer. If you’re not sure, and you’re the parent of a teen-ager, ask him or her and then you’re answer will come easier.

Why? Because teens ? and many adults ? don’t think oral sex isn’t like, well, you know, like, well, it isn’t real sex. Like, well, it’s not intercourse. Like, you can have oral sex and still be a virgin. Like, you know, if someone asks if you had sex with, say, well, a White House intern, and you know, like, you didn’t have intercourse, well, you know, you can say, “I did not have sex with that woman.”

What’s more is likeminded people consider oral sex safe territory. Heterosexuals and gays and lesbians consider oral safe to be safe sex. It is not.

Three million U.S. teens are infected with one or more sexually transmitted diseases ? including herpes, gonorrhea and the virus that causes AIDS, according to a study published in this month’s Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

If that lone fact doesn’t frighten you into getting a grip on your teen, perhaps these additional statistics from the same study will.

Forty percent of boys and girls engaged in oral sex within the past year. More than 25 percent of those boys and girls had three or more sexual partners. Not one partner, or even two ? but three or more.

Now, you can be polite and call that promiscuity or being loose, or you can be in denial and say our children are being influenced by the wrong crowd. You can even do the rap thing and say the girls are ho’s. The bottom line, however, is that parents are not paying attention.

We let teachers dictate what our children learn about sex and sexuality. We let Planned Parenthood dictate policies on condom distribution and non-parental notification regarding abortions. And, when it comes to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, we’re simply ignorant.

Did you know, for instance, that HIV data from many states is not even included in statistics by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Indeed, unlike the statistics regarding such STDs and other infectious diseases, some jurisdictions ? including California, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Maryland and Vermont ? do not report their HIV infection rates at all ? sometimes because those jurisdictions offer anonymous testing and sometimes because those jurisdictions base their data on home testing. Either way, the results aren’t reported to the CDC. Either way, our children are at risk.

Shouldn’t HIV/AIDS be treated by our health agencies like other infectious diseases? When a food handler in the school cafeteria is discovered to have tuberculosis, parents are notified. If a toddler in preschool turns up with measles, parents are notified. In fact, the D.C. school system launched one of the largest and most successful childhood immunization programs ever last year, threatening to keep any and all children out of school if their parents did not get them immunized against infectious diseases. Why is HIV being treated differently?

HIV/AIDS is a touchy subject, largely because of the stigma attached to it. Remember the ‘80s? “If you ain’t gay or ain’t shootin’ dope, you don’t have to worry.” Well, it’s been two decades, and this deadly HIV/AIDS thing is still taunting us.

President Bush’s legislation would send $15 billion of our tax dollars to Africa and the Caribbean to combat HIV/AIDS. Now, we need to look closer to home.

Nationally, we’re told HIV-infection rates among homosexuals are declining. The D.C. government says the fastest-growing HIV-infection rate is among women. But, if states aren’t gathering accurate data, how do we know? If the District and other governments aren’t gathering accurate data and the CDC isn’t incorporating accurate data, then we really and truly don’t know what’s up, now do we? And if the CDC doesn’t know, then how do national and local policy-makers make sound decisions? What are we to tell our children? Go ahead, sex yourselves up, just don’t have intercourse?

Parents usually sense when their children are not telling the truth, but the same holds when roles are reversed. So, give it to them straight: There is no such thing as safe sex.

Then, check out the statistics on the Internet, because statistics don’t lie. Or do they?

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