Abstinence Only Plans Ineffective...And Detrimental? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood

Sex Education

A large study of abstinence only programs in the United States indicates that the plans are ineffective in preventing sexual activity and may actually be detrimental since they fail to provide adequate sex education. The study confirms prior findings that such efforts have not been successful.

The Oxford University team reviewed 13 US trials involving over 15,000 people aged 10 to 21.

They found abstinence programmes had no negative or positive impact on the rates of sex infections or unprotected sex, the British Medical Journal said.

The latest study, which included trials comparing young people attending abstinence-only programmes against those receiving no sex education, raises questions over whether they work in developed countries.

Researchers found none of the abstinence-only programmes had an impact on the age at which individuals lost their virginity, whether they had unprotected sex, the number of sexual partners, the rates of sexually transmitted diseases or the number of pregnancies.

Note that the study compared young people in abstinence only programs against similar aged individuals who were receiving no sex education. In other words, children enrolled in abstinence plans were as vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy as their counterparts receiving no counseling whatsoever.

Essentially, the abstinence plans simply consume large sums of government funding with no measurable benefit...except to assuage the moral judgments of certain religiously inclined individuals. That sounds to me to be the equivalent of utilizing the state to impose religious beliefs...a scenario which I would equate with a clear violation of the separation of church and state.

This [abstinence plans] compared to programmes that promote the use of condoms which greatly reduce the risk of HIV, the BMJ reported.

Lead author Kristen Underhill said: "Our analysis suggests that abstinence-only programmes that aim to prevent HIV are not effective.

"This finding has key implications for policy and practice, especially in the US, where abstinence-only programmes receive both federal and state funding."

Genevieve Clark, of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "Young people need to know that they can say no to sex, just as they need to know how to protect themselves from pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections if they decide that a sexual relationship is right for them.

"But abstinence-only programmes don't work because they provide no safety net for those young people who do have a sexual relationship - and research shows that many do."

And Ivan Blake, of the young people's sexual health charity Brook, added: "There are even studies which show they can make things worse as people do not have the knowledge or confidence to have safe sex."

So the study goes on to demonstrate that money spent on sex education, which includes providing young people the knowledge to protect themselves from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, is very effective. Therefore, every dollar spent on an abstinence program reduces the money that can be spent on sex education; thereby increasing the rate of STD's and the number of pregnancies.

Frankly, parents that endorse abstinence only programs are thus creating an environment that is arguably detrimental to their own children. I suspect these plans creates a barrier between children and their parents. Those children who may be engaging in sexual activity are not likely to feel comfortable discussing or disclosing their activities.

Additionally, since children of parents who endorse abstinence only programs do not receive formal sex education, whatever sex education they do receive has to come from their parents in the home environment. As we see from the negative data, they mustn't be receiving adequate sex education at home...which means these children are virtually on their own to gain the knowledge necessary to protect themselves from STD's and pregnancy.

May I be so bold as to argue that this could or should be considered child abuse?

Tagged as: Abstinence Only, HIV, Morality, Religious Right, Sex Education, STD's, Teen Pregnancy

Daniel DiRito | August 3, 2007 | 4:54 PM
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