There’s an under-reported health care crisis brewing in this country: A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study reports at least one in four teenage girls — ages 14 to 19 — has a sexually transmitted infection; The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reports that the US has the highest rates of teen pregnancy among comparable countries, and an estimated 750,00 teenagers will become pregnant this year, and Advocates for Youth reports that about two young people are infected with HIV every hour of every day.

In recognition of this crisis, Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) recently introduced the Responsible Education About Life Act (REAL), a bill that designates federal funds for age-appropriate and medically accurate information to help young people make informed decisions about their relationships and sexual behavior.

The REAL Act will create a grant program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services that would fund comprehensive sex education programs in schools nationwide. Currently, no federal program is dedicated to supporting comprehensive sex education, while failed abstinence-only programs have received $1.5 billion in federal funding since 1996 when President Bill Clinton began a practice that was later highly accelerated by the Bush Administration.

This despite the fact that abundant research has shown that, contrary to abstinence-only education comprehensive sex education helps reduce risk behaviors by delaying the onset of sexual intercourse, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or contraceptive use among teens.

A study conducted by the University of Washington found that teens who had comprehensive sex education were 50 percent less likely to become pregnant than teens who had no sex education or who were in abstinence-only programs, and And a 2008 Guttmacher report found that most abstinence programs did not delay the initiation of sexual activity.

The REAL Act is a necessary antidote to counterproductive abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that spread misinformation, marginalize gay and lesbian youth and reinforce gender stereotypes. The idea is that these programs will supply young people with the tools to make informed decisions, resist peer pressure, set goals, manage stress, be responsible, understand and accept diversity, build healthy relationships and have access to up-to-date information about how they can protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.

Please voice your support for the REAL Act by clicking here to implore your elected reps to sponsor the legislation today.