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New Mexico launches texting service for sex ed

By Vanessa de la Viña, vanessa@kvia.com
Published On: Sep 24 2013 11:14:48 PM CDT
Updated On: Jan 16 2014 02:08:03 PM CST

ABC-7's Vanessa de la Vina reports.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

New Mexico teens can now use their cellphones to get advice on sex.

It's a new program offered by the state department of health.

New Mexico is the second state in the country to launch a program of this kind.

Some parents who spoke with ABC-7 said they hope teens pick up their cellphones and use the program.

"Nowadays it's just better that they know. It would give them a way they wouldn't have to be embarrassed. They could talk to someone on the phone, texting," one Las Cruces parent said.

It's no secret that teenagers are having sex.

Earlier this year, a report by the Guttmacher Institute ranked New Mexico as the state with the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country.

For teens, talking about sex isn't so easy.

"It's really awkward to talk to your friends about that because they have different situations and they have different feelings on things," said Nathan Donaldson, a Las Cruces teen.

"Sometimes you ask people and they think there's something wrong with you because you're embarrassed and you don't know exactly what to ask someone," said Alexia Beem, another Las Cruces teen.

The state department of health is hoping to get teens texting to make better decisions.

To register for the service, teens can text "NMTEEN" to the number 66746. Then teens can send questions about sex, relationships and their bodies to the number. Health experts give them an answer within 24 hours.

Parents can also use the service to get advice on how to approach their teens about sex issues and for help understanding slang. Parents can register by texting "NMPARENT" to the number 66746.

It's all confidential, taking the embarrassment out of asking.

"My daughters don't talk to me about that. It would be good for them to reach out to that kind of program so they can talk to people they're comfortable talking to," said Sharita Garner, a Las Cruces parent.

"I don't think it would be comfortable. It'd be better if she went to her mom if she couldn't talk to me," said David Mendoza, another Las Cruces parent.

The New Mexico Teen Pregnancy Coalition hopes this texting program will help teens make smarter, safer decisions.

"If they're talking to their friends, are they getting the right information? I think this program will give them the truth about their questions," said Gary Madrid, the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Coordinator for the organization.

Teens who spoke with ABC-7 said they and their friends would use the program.

"I think it'd be good to have someone to talk to and they don't know who you are," Beem said.

"That would be wonderful for a lot of people. There would be a lot less teen pregnancies and STDs out there, I think," Donaldson said.

ABC-7 texted one of the most commonly asked questions to test out the program: "Where can I get birth control?"

Within an hour, the service sent this response: "Hello. Thank you for the question. It's good that you're thinking about birth control as an option -- especially if you think you might become sexually active. We would suggest that you contact the NM State Health Dept Family Planning Program or Planned Parenthood."

The response included links to both agencies' websites.

For more information on the service, click here.

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