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Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Sexual abstinence among Virgin Islands adolescents is the focus this year of Sen. Lorraine Berry's annual Black History Month essay contest, where students are being asked to discuss the theme: "Hands off, Back off, I'm Special."
After last year's contest, which was limited to high school students, Berry said she had many recommendations to conduct a similar forum for middle-schoolers. "These recommendations were well advised, " said Berry, "as pertinent statistics indicate increased sexual activity and the presence of AIDS even among this age group."
The statistics on pre-adolescent sex in the territory are frightening," said Berry. In a survey of 412 children 13 years old and younger, 12 were found to have AIDS, according to a V.I. Comprehensive Health report issued in 1999.
Marie Simmons, retired educator and a consultant on diversity issues for the national office of the American Red Cross, said, "It's so important that youth are given a chance to understand what is going on, in terms of sexual awareness. We have to bring it to the forefront, instead of the closet."
Citing the V.I statistics, Simmonds said, "It's scary what's happening in the islands, the denial. The community has to understand that AIDS is a disease."
People lose out on life, she said, because they are not well-educated, "and these are our kids, our future generation."
Berry has called upon all sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade English teachers to encourage their students, boys as well as girls, to participate in the contest. The students are asked to discuss the means young people should use to protect themselves against sexually aggressive overtures.
Last year more than 150 public and private high school students submitted essays on "Education First, Family Later." Francesca Greve of Berry's staff said that discussion opened up a lot of areas previously untouched.
Some of the questions the kids asked would "knock your socks off," she said, and brought about healthy and open discussion on otherwise hidden subjects such as masturbation.
The essays must be between 500 and 750 words, and must be in Berry's office by March 15. The winners will receive savings bonds of $500, $300 and $200. They will be invited to make their presentations at the followup symposium at Palms Court Harborview Hotel on April 7. The selection of this year's contest judges and panelists has not yet been completed.
The contest is in partnership with the Adolescent Health Program, under the direction of Elsie Chinnery. As a condition of its federal grant, Berry said, this particular program must inculcate the concept of sexual abstinence among youth.

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