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Reports of teens with STDs drop by half in El Paso County

Reports of teens with sexually transmitted diseases have decreased in El Paso County, according to City of El Paso Health Department.

CBS4 spoke to a group of teens with the University Medical Center Teen Advisory Board (TAB) who said what they're learning about sex isn't coming from a textbook.

"I used to be very uncomfortable with it, we'd all sugar coat the words,"13-year-old Alondra Monroy said regarding what used to happen when the topic of sex would come up.

Monroy is an El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) student who enrolled in the TAB program at the hospital.

The program is a four-hour course taken every Saturday for 12 weeks covering several topics, like suicide, bullying and sexual responsibilities.

The program is made up of seventh and eighth graders from local schools.

The teens talk about things that can make some adults uncomfortable.

Students in El Paso County said the subject of sex is only touched on quickly during health class at their schools.

"They do teach you about the anatomy. It's very quick, one to two days," said Julin Bersch, 12, from Clint Independent School District (CISD).

Areli Telles, 13, a Ysleta Independent School District (YISD) student, said she didn't learn anything about sex at school.

CBS4 reached out to area school districts to see what the curriculum for sex education entailed.

EPISD, YISD, CISD and Socorro Independent School District responded, saying students are taught about all topics concerning sex and safety.

But none of the districts could tell CBS4 how long their instructors focus on sex, most saying it's up to instructors' discretion.

We asked the Texas Department of State Health Services for teen STD case counts over the past five years.

Reports of gonorrhea and chlamydia dropped by half in El Paso County from 2012 to 2016.

Even the number of new HIV diagnoses have declined over the past four years.

Syphilis, however, had 10 reports in 2016, five more than in 2012.

Sara Cera, with the City of El Paso Department of Public Health, said, "There is education out there in the community."

Cera believes teenagers are now more aware of sexually transmitted diseases.

However, Bersch said, "We just learn, like, well, don't get a girl pregnant."

So are students really understanding the gravity of an impulsive decision?

The youngest student in the group said sex is not going to be safe all the time.

"Oh, it's OK. A lot of stuff happens, you know? You need to be in control,"Bersch said.

The TAB course is meant to inform students so that they, in turn, can inform their peers.

The only requirement is that the student has to be a seventh or eighth grader at the time of registration.

TAB accepts students from all school districts including private and homeschooling.

The Department of Health wants to remind teens 14 and older that they don't need parental consent to get tested for STD's.

Contact the Preventive Medicine Clinic at 915-212-6537 for testing hours.

They offer HIV, Syphilis, Hepatitis C, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia screening and treatment.

There is usually a $40 fee that is charged, however they do not deny services to anyone who cannot pay.

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