“We at Planned Parenthood also believe it’s critically important that parents speak to their teens about matters of sex, relationships and values, and that they convey information about abstinence and about how teens can protect themselves once they become sexually active,” said Mary-Jane Wagle, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles. “Not giving that vital information leaves teens in the dark and leads to the kind of public health crisis that the Public Health Institute study documents.” In recent years, the number of sexually transmitted disease cases has increased substantially at the county, state and national levels, including large increases in chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV cases, officials say. By the 12th grade, 65 percent of high school students have had sexual intercourse, and one in five has had four or more partners, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Many of the diseases, known as STDs, can cause serious health problems, including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy and increased risk of HIV. Johanna Nestor, director of the Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs at DHHS, said President Bush initiated the “Parents Speak Up” campaign in his State of the Union address in 2004, urging parents to talk to their children. “The message is to get parents to talk to their children early and often about waiting to have sex,” Nestor said. In recent decades, a national political and philosophical battle has raged over whether children should be told to wait to have sex until marriage, or instructed to use condoms to prevent STDs. Republicans have long called for abstinence education, primarily based on moral reasons. In recent years, more government funds have been dedicated to abstinence education. But for every $9 spent on sex education, only $1 is spent on abstinence education, said Moira Gaul, director of Women’s Reproductive Health at the Family Research Council, a pro-family public policy organization in Washington, D.C. “Clearly, we have an epidemic of STDs in young people,” Gaul said. “And premature adolescent sex has been associated with a number of negative outcomes, including poor academic performance, substance abuse, mental health (problems), as well as increased risk for STDs and out-of-wedlock pregnancies.” [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Citing new statistics showing one in five county youth contracted sexually transmitted diseases in 2005, Burke will join others at a pro-abstinence rally outside the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration. Burke, along with actress and AIDS activist Sheryl Lee Ralph, gospel duo Mary Mary, comedian Michael Colyer and youths from various community-based organizations, will speak after the morning rally. The rally is designed to promote local participation in the national “Parents Speak Up” campaign, which encourages parents to initiate the conversation with their preteen and teenage children about the importance of abstinence. “It’s very important for parents to talk to their preteen and teenage children about the importance of abstinence and the risks of getting some sexually transmitted disease,” Burke said. “We realize teens are often under a great deal of pressure, but parents need to get in there first and explain the real problems.” Burke decided to call for the rally after a recent report by the Oakland-based Public Health Institute estimated more than 1million young people in the state contracted sexual diseases that cost the state more than $1 billion in 2005. In the county, about one in five young people from 15 to 24 contracted diseases that year. HEALTH: Burke decides that sex diseases require a new plan. She’ll speak at a rally. By Troy Anderson STAFF WRITER Breaking ranks with other officials who for years have promoted condom use among the young to protect them from sexually transmitted diseases, Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke today will urge youth to abstain from sex.