SANDY, Utah (News4Utah) – Pregnancy rates in Utah are down 50 percent in the last several years. The Utah Health Department says it’s partly due to easier access to birth control.
The other part of the equation, lies in having open conversations with our children about teen sex, perhaps much sooner than you might think. It’s a challenge to start the conversation about sex with your children, but there’s one place here in Utah that perhaps makes it easier and un-avoidable.
PRJKT Ruby, pronounced ‘project,’ is believed to be the largest on-line birth control provider in the United States.
“We’ve seen unprecedented demand in this product line,” said Peter Ax, founder of PRJKT Ruby.
The company has 40, 000 customers and it’s on track to sending out 300,000,000 packets of ‘the pill’ nationwide this year.
The distribution site is located right here in the Salt Lake Valley.
Ax started, what he believes, is the nation’s first telemedicine company 17 years ago. They sell a range of medications from Viagra, Cialis, to weight loss medications.
But he started PRJKT Ruby, named after one of his daughters, three years ago.
“The genesis of PRJKT Ruby came from my own teenage daughters who had done traveling to Africa and Asia,” said Ax.
For every prescription filled, a portion of the sales is donated to family planning efforts in developing countries.
“The idea was to empower women to take charge of their bodies, to take charge of their decisions, and to make good constructive decisions about when they want to be pregnant,” said Ax.
Ax says PRJKT Ruby is fully regulated and follows each state’s laws, including age of consent.
“We’re regulated on a pharmacy basis and physician basis in 50 states. I would argue, we are as safe as you can possibly be.”
A prescription is required, which is done online.
“The physician may have a telemedicine visit with the consumer online or they fill out a questionnaire and the physician examines that, and determines whether or not they should be prescribing,” said Ax.
“I don’t think you should get it on line you should go to your doctor with questions,” said Kelli Ann Fry.
“Although there are differing opinions, we’ve had respectful dialogue and built a successful business in Utah,” said Ax.
PRJKT Ruby does turn down patients if they see any red flags during these virtual visits.
The Utah Health Department says access to birth control has helped cut the state’s teen pregnancy rate by half.
“We know it is in part due to access to reliable forms of contraception. That’s one piece of the puzzle. Fewer teens are engaging in sex so it’s a mix,” said Elizabeth Gerke, teen pregnancy prevention coordinator.
They say it starts with the parents who are the greatest influencers on their children. To help parents broach the subject with their children the Utah Health Department recently brought the program called ‘Families Talking Together.’
Educators coach parents through this sensitive topic.
“Families Talking Together is a two hour intervention for parents of adolescents, and it’s designed to teach the parents how to talk to their kids about sex,” said Jordan Miller, Health Educator, Bear River Health Department.
Health experts say, instead of stressing out about having ‘the talk’ think about it as an ongoing conversation and finding everyday ordinary moments to springboard.
“If a song comes on the radio that is degrading, you can turn to your adolescent and say how do you think this made that person feel? And then dive in deeper to see what their thoughts are,” said Miller.
Nothing, perhaps is more in your face when it comes to talking about teen sex than oral contraceptives.
At PRJKT Ruby, there is an abundance of opportunities.
“It’s amazing how much they open up to strangers.”
Lisa Dimick, pharmacist in charge at PRJKT Ruby’s distribution center, consistently receives calls from girls with questions and concerns.
“I’ve tried to take every opportunity, if we are providing a service, how important it is to have this dialogue with their parents,” said Dimick.
“What’s happened in my family, with my teenage girls, is that they have all come to me about their personal lives about their decision about birth control because they don’t feel threatened by me,” said Ax.
Health experts say conversations about sex should start no later than 10 years old.
For more information about Families Talking Together program, call your local health department.