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Teens talk sex

Be smart and strong; be informed and prepared. Talk to someone; exercise your right to choose, say "no." Protect yourself always. These are the prevailing messages conveyed by a panel of experts and community leaders to teens about sex during the Jaguars Foundation's live television town hall forum, Straight Talk: Teens & Sex …The Real Truth.

The production is the cornerstone of the Jaguars Foundation efforts to prevent teen pregnancy and led by Jaguars Foundation Chair and CEO, and Jaguars owner, Delores Barr Weaver. This collaborative effort is one of the many ways the Foundation and the local community is reaching out to teens to help prevent teen pregnancy, the spread of AIDS/HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

All local television stations, along with other area media and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida work together to turn out the annual live prime time television show. The purpose of the program is to promote thoughtful discussion and encourage responsible behavior.

According to the professionals including medical and legal experts and psychotherapists, talking to teens about sex, opening the lines of communication and being educated are the best known ways to empower teens and perhaps one of the most effective deterrents to unplanned pregnancies and the prevention of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections. On the contrary, obstacles faced by teens today, and in their own words, are the pressures from their very own peers, lack of knowledge and thinking "it won't happen to me."

Most importantly, the Jaguars Foundation and the many other professionals who collaborate to produce the live community forum advocate to teens that abstinence is the first choice and the only 100% effective method to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of HIV/AIDS and STI's.

The annual show is broadcast each May and this year featured celebrity Wesley Jonathan, who stars in the WB sitcom "What I Like About You"; Jaguars safety, Donovin Darius; radio personalities, Amadeus and DJ Dr. Doom; local favorite, Jennifer Candelino; a guest panel of professionals including Dr. Linda Dinerman; attorney, Libby Senterfitt from the State Attorneys Office; Delores Barr Weaver and an all-teen studio audience.

The show not only includes advice from a panel of experts, but teens speak out themselves. One special piece featured a young teen mother, Shamika. Shamika is seventeen and raising a daughter on her own. She spoke about how her life was drastically altered when she became pregnant and the hardships of making a life for herself and her baby without her boyfriend.

Jaguars safety Donovin Darius also made a powerful impact with his message to teens, impressing upon them "wait," get their own lives established, and learn about themselves before they start having babies.

Equally as powerful, were the messages by teens, asking tough questions about sex, relationships and the risks facing teenagers today. But most importantly, was the collective message to all teens - you get one life, know yourself, be thoughtful with your decisions and maintain good health, and establish boundaries with regard to relationships and sex.

Viewers were also able to participate in the program via the Internet and telephone. Teens & Sex…The Real Truth 2003 was filmed live at WJCT-PBS 7 and simulcast on WETV- CBS 47. All other local Jacksonville television stations rebroadcast the show from May 22-May 31.

In addition to the live television show, the Straight Talk program, in partnership with the Weaver Family Foundation, has awarded more than $750,000 in grants to local programs specifically dealing with this issue.

For more information log on to the Straight Talk website at straighttalk.jacksonville. com, created in partnership with jacksonville.com / The Florida Times-Union.

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