ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — The Alexandria Campaign on Adolescent Pregnancy (ACAP) celebrated its 20th anniversary on Thursday by releasing new pregnancy data by the Alexandria Health Department.
The ACAP partners with city agencies like the Alexandria Health Department’s Teen Wellness Center and Alexandria City Public Schools to “help young people see the possibilities in their lives if they avoid pregnancy and fatherhood during their teen years.”
The health department has been swamped by the coronavirus response, so its 2019 data analysis is pending. However, on Thursday a population health epidemiologist shared 2018’s data and trends over the course of 13 years.
The teen pregnancy rate and live birth rate among teens (ages 10 to 19-years-old) have declined in Alexandria, especially among white teens. The overall decline, however, is not statistically significant. In 2018, 19 percent of pregnant teens were between the ages of 15 and 17. 81 percent were between the ages of 18 and 19.
Alexandria’s rate of teen pregnancies is consistently higher than rates in Arlington, the City of Falls Church, Prince William County, and Fairfax County. The health department recorded big gaps in live birth rates, especially between Hispanic teens and white teens. Those gaps are persistent over time.
The city’s Teen Wellness Center, located in T.C. Williams High School, educates teen boys and girls about safe sex options, including IUDs, the birth control pill, and condoms. A recent survey (before the pandemic) found that students are less sexually active and most are using condoms.
Deputy Health Director Anne Gaddy says sexually transmitted infection rates have “dramatically fallen” nationally since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Experts assume that’s because people are taking social distancing precautions, but many also worry cases are going undetected as people forgo visits to the doctor.
“I think, particularly as we move from this phase into the next phase as things start reopening, it will be really important to try and poll back in our teen population – and across the country – people may be needing care but haven’t sought it.”
ACAP also reaches youth through its Teen Text Message Line and through social media to encourage parent-child communications, abstinence, and safer sex messages.
The ACAP believes “adolescents should be encouraged to delay sexual activity, parents/guardians should be the primary sexual educators of their children,” and that “adolescents have the right to full, medically accurate information about sexuality and the right to safe, healthy relationships.”