Texas' Youth: Focus on Sexual and Reproductive Health Print

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Across the United States, young people are at risk for unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV. Texas’ teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average, and young minority women living in the state have disproportionately high birth rates. Men who have sex with men are at the highest risk for HIV in Texas, and African American women suffer at rates vastly disproportionate to population. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are also a growing problem. Because the risk for negative sexual health outcomes is a reality, comprehensive sexuality education and access to contraception are more important than ever to the health of Texas’ youth.

Texas: A Populous, Diverse State

  • Over 3.5 million youth between the ages of 15 and 24 live in Texas – about 15 percent of the population.[1]
  • Over half of Texas’ youth – 1.86 million - are African American or Latino.[1]
  • Since 1990 Texas’ youth population has increased by almost a third.[1]

Texas’ Youth Are At Risk for Negative Sexual Health Outcomes

  • Fifty-three percent of high school students in Texas report having had sex and 39 percent report being currently sexually active.
  • Fifty-six percent of high school students in Texas report having used condoms at last intercourse. Only three states have lower rates of condom use among students.
  • Texas’ teen pregnancy rate of 101 pregnancies per 1,000 girls ages 15-19 is significantly higher than the national rate of 84. Only four states have higher teen pregnancy rates than Texas. Since 1990, Texas’ pregnancy rate has dropped by 18 percent, compared to a 24 percent drop nationwide.[2]
  • Texas’ teen birth rate of 62 births per 1,000 girls ages 15-19 is the highest in the nation - significantly higher than the national rate of 41. Since 1990, Texas’ birth rate has dropped by 21 percent, compared to a 34 percent drop nationwide.[2]
  • Texas’ AIDS case rate of 13 cases per 100,000 people is the tenth highest, worse than 40 states. Among 45 states with HIV reporting, Texas has the third highest number (24,699) of people living with HIV.[3]
  • Young people ages 15-24 comprised twenty percent of Texas’ new HIV cases in 2006.[4]
  • Texas’ youth , especially young women, are at risk for STIs:
    • Youth ages 15-24 experienced 73 percent of the total number of Chlamydia cases in Texas in 2006.
    • Youth ages 15-24 experienced 61 percent of the total number of Gonorrhea cases in Texas in 2006.
    • For all youth in this age range, young women were most at risk for STIs, experiencing 83 percent of Chlamydia infections and 60 percent of gonorrhea infections.[4]

Social Factors Put Racial and Sexual Minority Youth At Risk

  • In the regional south of the United States, cultural factors including poverty, unemployment, and racial inequities put young people of color at particular risk for negative sexual health outcomes, including teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV.[5,6,7] African Americans and Latinos in Texas are more likely to live below the poverty line than whites.[8]
  • African American and Hispanic/Latino youth in Texas are at higher risk for pregnancy than are their white peers. Sixty-five in 1,000 white youth ages 15-19 experience pregnancy, compared to 120 African American youth per 1,000 and 142 Hispanic/Latino youth per 1,000.[2]
  • African American youth are almost twice as likely to give birth as white youth, and Hispanics/Latinos, 3 times as likely.[2]
  • African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos are disproportionately affected by HIV. African Americans are more than six times as likely to be infected with AIDS as whites, and Hispanics/Latinos are 1.5 times as likely as whites to be infected.[3]
  • African American women are especially at risk – they suffer 63 percent of Texas’ cumulative HIV cases among women, even though they make up only 12 percent of the female population.[4,8]
  • GLBTQ youth in Texas are marginalized and at risk for HIV.
    • Men who have sex with men are at the highest risk for HIV – they made up 77 percent of men who reported a mode of transmission in 2007.[4]
    • Seventy-nine percent of youth in Texas have heard homophobic remarks in school, and twenty-nine report that their peers are frequently bullied because of sexual orientation or gender expression.[9]

Texas’ Abstinence-Only Programs Are Ineffective and May Even Harm Youth

  • Texas received $4.78 million in funds for abstinence-only programs in 2006. In 2007 Texas received an additional 2.7 million in Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) funds.[10,11]
  • Texas does not mandate sexuality education for students but require that if sex education is taught, it requires an abstinence-only model, including requiring programs to present abstinence as the “preferred choice” for unmarried students and “devote more attention to abstinence than to any other behavior.” [10]
  • Federally funded abstinence-only programs, including the ones used in Texas, cannot include information about the health benefits of contraception and condoms for sexually active youth and must teach that sex outside of marriage is likely to have harmful physical and psychological effects.[10]
  • Abstinence-only programs also must emphasize marriage as the only appropriate context for sex. Thus, at their worst they promote homophobia and at their best they totally ignore the needs of GLBTQ youth.[12] The Gay Lesbian Straight Educators Network (GLSEN) gives Texas a grade of F in creating policies which protect the safety of GLBTQ youth – only 8 states scored worse than Texas, and it is one of only 7 states to have laws which prohibit the positive portrayal of homosexuality in schools. [13]
  • Recent research on abstinence-only programs has found them ineffective, with no impact on reducing teen pregnancy, delaying sexual initiation, or reducing STIs.[14,15]
  • Research on comprehensive sexuality education has consistently shown that young people who receive complete and accurate information about abstinence, condoms, and contraception were not more likely to have sex or acquire an STI.[16,17]
  • Recent research on comprehensive sexuality education found that youth who received it were significantly more likely to use condoms if sexually active, and were significantly less likely to be involved in pregnancy. [15,17]


Texas’ youth are at risk for pregnancy, HIV, and STIs; youth of color and GLBTQ youth are at disproportionate risk for negative sexual health outcomes. Research shows that comprehensive sexuality education and access to contraceptive services can help young people protect their health and well-being. Further, there are a number of culturally relevant science-based programs than can successfully assist youth of color to reduce sexual risk taking. [16,17]


  1. U.S. Census Bureau. “2006 American Community Survey. Texas: Sex By Age.” Accessed on August 5, 2008 from &-mt_name=ACS_2006_EST_G2000_B01001&-CONTEXT=dt&-tree_id=306&-geo_id=04000US48&-
  2. National Campaign to End Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “State Profile: Texas.” Accessed from on August 15, 2008.
  3. “Kaiser State Facts: Texas – HIV/AIDS.” Kaiser Family Foundation. Accessed from on August 15, 2008.
  4. Texas Department of State Health Services, HIV/AIDS Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch. Texas HIV/STD Surveillance Report 2006. Accessed from on September 26, 2008.
  5. Alan Guttmacher Institute. Teenage Pregnancy and the Welfare Reform Debate. [Issues in Brief]. New York: The Institute, 1998.
  6. Adaora, A. “HIV and African Americans in the United States” Sexual Networks and Social Context.” Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 33(7): 2006.
  7. Farley, TA. “Sexually transmitted diseases in the Southeastern United States: Location, Race, and Social Context.” Sexually Transmitted Diseases 2006, 33(7 Suppl): s58-s64.
  8. U.S. Census Bureau Public Information Office. “Census 2000 Data for the State of Texas.” Accessed from
  9. Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network. “From Teasing to Torment: Study Reveals Student Perceptions of Bullying and Harassment in Texas.” Accessed from on September 26, 2008.
  10. SIECUS Public Policy Office. “State Profile: Texas.” Sexuality Education and Information Council of the United States, 2007. Accessed from =487&grandparentID=478&pageId=860 on August 15, 2008.
  11. Family Youth and Services Bureau. “Discretionary Grant Programs.” Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008. Accessed from
    on September 1, 2008.
  12. Society for Adolescent Medicine. Abstinence-only education policies and programs: a position paper of the Society for Adolescent Medicine. Journal of Adolescent Health 2006; 38(1):83-87.
  13. Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network. State of the States: Texas . Accessed from on August 15, 2008.
  14. Trenholm et al. Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs. Princeton: Mathematica Policy Research, 2007. Accessed from on April 15, 2008.
  15. Kohler et al. “Abstinence-only and Comprehensive Sex Education and the Initiation of Sexual Activity and Teen Pregnancy.” Journal of Adolescent Health, 42(4): 344-351.
  16. Kirby D. Emerging Answers 2007.. Washington, DC: The National Campaign, 2007 to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Accessed from on March 1, 2008.
  17. Alford S. Science and Success: Sex Education and Other Programs That Work to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, HIV & Sexually Transmitted Infections. Washington, DC: Advocates for Youth, 2003.

Written by Emily Bridges, MLS
2008 © Advocates for Youth


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