Catch them young. But how young? At schools of course, say those battling the HIV/AIDS scourge in the US.
Administrators at a Portland middle school are Planning to make available birth control pills and patches to students. The school's female students are in grades six to eight and range from ages 11 to 13.
"We are considering a bold proposal that would allow students to access a broader range of contraceptives from the school's health center," the administrators said.
The King Middle School's health center already provides condoms as part of its reproductive health program, implemented after five of the 135 students who visited the center last year reported being sexually active.
"We do certainly sit down and speak with them about why that's not a good choice," said Portland's school nurse coordinator Amanda Rowe of sexually active students. "But there are some who persist, even though we don't like to think about that in being sexually active, and they need to be protected."
"It will provide a means of making sure you don't get pregnant and ruin your school career and limit yourself in the future," Rowe said.
The Portland School Committee will consider a proposal that would make prescription birth control available to students who have parental permission to be treated at King Middle School's health center, said an announcement Wednesday.
If the committee approves the King proposal, it would be the first middle school in Maine to make a full range of contraception available to some students in grades 6 to 8, said Nancy Birkhimer, director of teen health programs for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
Although students must have written parental permission to be treated at Portland's school-based health centers, state law allows them to seek confidential health care and to decide whether to inform their parents about the services they receive, Belanger said.
"They are sending mixed messages. In the state of Maine it is illegal to have sex under the age of 14," said cable talk show host and ABC News commentator Glen Beck on "Good Morning America." "You are enabling people."
Beck argued that the plan makes it too easy for girls to have sex and takes power away from the parent, a sentiment some parents agree with.
"I don't think I would want my child in middle school to be getting birth control pills unless I had something to do with it," one woman said.
Proponents say a small number of King students are sexually active, but those who are need better access to birth control.
One mother said she believed the idea may be on the right track.
"I think that education at that age is appropriate because our culture is saturated with messages about sex," the woman said.