South Carolina’s teen birth rate has declined by 67% since peaking in 1991, continuing decades of success for communities acrost the state. This includes a 9% decrease from 2015 to 2016, landing the teen birth rate for 15-19 year olds at 23.8 per 1,000 females. Declines over the past 25 years have been most substantial among African American youth ages 15-17 whose teen birth rate has decreased by 82% since 1991. While teen birth rates have decreased for all ages and races in previous years, Hispanic teens (15-19) experienced a 12% increase in teen births from 2015 to 2016. Still, older youth (18-19 year olds) continue to drive the overall South Carolina teen birth rate, currently making up 75% of all teen births among 15-19 year olds.
As the teen birth rate continues to decline, STI and HIV rates remain an area of concern. In 2015, South Carolina ranked in the top 10 nationally for rates of Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and diagnosed HIV for all ages. From 2015-2016, South Carolina saw a 4.6% increase in the rate for Chlamydia, a 16.2% increase in the rate for Gonorrhea, while HIV prevalence saw a 22.7% decrease (15-19 year olds, per 100,000 population).
The South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (SC Campaign) continues to focus efforts in this direction by working with agencies like the United Way of Anderson, Helping Hands, Inc. and OCAB Community Action Agency, Inc., through a multi-year project entitled Expanding the Reach. Other counties actively partnering with the SC Campaign include Bamberg, Barnwell, Darlington and Dillon. The organization also works with programs in Horry, Richland and Spartanburg Counties. All programs emphasize abstinence as the safest, most effective way to prevent pregnancy. The programs support knowledge and the use of various forms of birth control and condoms among sexually active teens. This is critical to not only preventing teen pregnancy, but STIs and HIV as well.
Additionally, the organization is dedicated to providing public awareness across the state, especially during months like October when professionals in the field highlight national campaigns, including “Let’s Talk Month.” During the month programs encourage open communication between young people and their parents or other trusted adults. Believe it or not, teens want to hear from their parents regarding love, sex, and relationships. Starting age-appropriate conversations early and into early adulthood will help young people make smarter decisions regarding their sexual health. More details about this public awareness campaign and October community events around SC can be found here – https://www.teenpregnancysc.org/lets-talk-month.
Beth De Santis, SC Campaign CEO, says “A 67% decline in our state’s teen birth rate since 1991 is a point of pride for our state. Our teens are continuing to make healthier decisions about their futures and we owe this success to the parents and trusted adults in schools, health care centers and youth serving organizations across South Carolina. While we are impressed with the declines that have been made, we recognize work must continue by all of us to maintain success.
It is also imperative that communities continue to financially support teen pregnancy prevention efforts whether it be federal, state, corporate or individual funds in order to see continued success in South Carolina. Investing in prevention will not only benefit our state financially, but improve educational achievement and economic development.
With 3,696 births to teens in 2016 and a continual increase in STI and HIV rates, we must find solutions when it comes to reaching youth where they need it the most. We are focusing our work on parent/child communication, the best of comprehensive health education, the healthcare community and normalizing conversations about love, sex and relationships. It has been and always will be a collective effort that prevents teen pregnancy and we cannot impact this issue or relevant systems without effective collaboration.”