Health leaders issue warning to teen girls

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Abstinence, or safe sex? It's a real decision many teen girls are forced to make. This weekend an open forum hopes to make those choices easier.

Thousands of girls will gather at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum for the second annual Saving Our Sisters Summit.

"I know some of the problems on the coast that's repeating over and over," said Dr. Belinda Alexander.

Dr. Alexander is one of many women committed to educating teen girls and their parents at the summit.

"A 13-year-old should not think, I have the mind of a 20-year-old, therefore I make this decision," said Dr. Alexander.

According to the state Department of Health, in addition to teen pregnancy rates, Mississippi also leads the nation in the number of teens infected with chlamydia and gonorrhea. The Department of Health also reports 606 new HIV cases. Of those, 160 are young adults ages 13 to 24.

"HIV doesn't have a name. It doesn't have a face," said Trinette Crump with the South Mississippi AIDS Task Force.

The local organization is committed to educating the public in hopes of preventing the transmission of HIV and AIDS.

"Children are starting to have sex younger," said Crump. "Children sometimes want to explore their bodies and explore different things, and if they don't learn it at home, someone is going to take advantage of them."

Executive Director of the South Mississippi AIDS Task Force, Amanda Breckenridge, agrees.

"The more people know, the faster this disease is going to go away," said Breckenridge. "You've got to get tested every year and you can't trust someone who says, 'Oh I use protection.' Or, 'I didn't have but one girlfriend.' You don't."

It's a message that will be shared as women gather with other women in hopes of saving our sisters.

"If we don't talk about it and take a stand, it's going to get worse," said Crump.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.