JACKSON, Miss.--()--A new website and statewide advertising campaign launched today with the goal of lowering Mississippi’s rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
“We are in no way encouraging the teens in our state to have sex”
FactNotFiction.com offers teens – and their parents – medically accurate information about their sexual health. The project is paid for by the Women’s Fund of Mississippi, a Jackson-based non-profit whose goal is improving the lives of women and girls within the state. This campaign, however, targets males as much as females.
The new website, FactNotFiction.com, is designed with input from Mississippi teenagers and offers medically accurate information on relationships, STIs, pregnancy and making good choices for long-term sexual health. Since such a large percentage of teens in the state are dependent on cell phones for access to the Internet, the site is built to function on smartphones and tablets, as well as traditional home computer browsers.
To build awareness, an advertising campaign has been launched in a range of media outlets across the state – including television, radio, transit, online, mobile and Facebook.
“When we began reviewing the multitude of research reports citing that Mississippi has the nation’s highest rates of teen births and STIs, we knew we had to do something innovative and forward thinking for the young women and men of our state,” said Carol Penick, executive director of the Women’s Fund of Mississippi. “These statistics carry with them long-lasting negative effects on our state, both socially and economically.”
Indeed, a report from the Women’s Fund of Mississippi shows that, in 2009 alone, teen pregnancy cost Mississippi taxpayers $155 million. And the effects are long lasting, as teen parents and their children are less likely to graduate from high school – and even less likely to graduate from college.
In spite of school-based education programs, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that Mississippi’s teen birth rate (55 per 1,000 teens) is nearly double the national average (34.3 per 1,000 teens). Of the 39,984 births in Mississippi in 2010, an astounding 6,185 births were to teen mothers – that’s 15.5% of all the state’s births.
Perhaps more shocking is that 69% of Mississippi 12th graders reported having had sex, according to a 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). When looking at a broader age range of high schoolers – which included 9th grade through 12th grade – the report found that 58% of all current high schoolers were sexually active, and 35% of those did not use a condom when they last had sex.
“We are in no way encouraging the teens in our state to have sex,” said Penick. “However, if a teen does choose to have sex, we simply want them to be able to make an educated decision – and to fully understand the risks involved.”
The medical information located at FactNotFiction.com is provided in association with health professionals at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the Mississippi State Department of Health, and the non-profit Internet Sexuality Information Services, Inc.
Founded in 2002, the Women’s Fund of Mississippi is the only grantmaking and advocacy organization in Mississippi entirely dedicated to funding programs that improve the lives of women and girls statewide. They are dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls by promoting social change and economic self-sufficiency through advocacy and strategic grant making. They believe that when women are economically secure, safe and healthy, then families and communities are economically secure, safe and healthy.