Placing young adults at a greater risk for HIV is an unintended consequence that the religious right is unwilling to acknowledge, but it's a fact. They oppose sex education that promotes safe sex practices, such as the use of condoms, in favor of abstinence-only education that has been shown actually provides mis-information about safe sex practices. They've successfully lobbied the White House to continue these programs, and those efforts are ineffective at stopping HIV transmission among the targeted group.
Now there is yet another study out, this time in the U.K., showing that abstinence-only education programs are ineffective. The study shows that in high income countries like the United States, abstinence-only programs do not reduce the risk of HIV infection.
Sex abstinence programmes do not stop risky sexual behaviour or help in the prevention of unwanted pregnancy, a research team has concluded.
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.
Abstinence-only sex ed was quietly passed into law, without hearings or floor votes in Congress, back in 1982 during the Reagan administration. From 1996 to 2006 Congress funneled over $1.5 Billion in state and federal matching funds to promote abstinence-only sex education. Currently Bush's budgeting has one-third of the HIV prevention monies allocated to abstinence-only sex education programs.
Today's news isn't new information. Numerous studies over the years have shows that abstinence-only sex education definitely keeps young adults at risk, but the religious right cares more about their moral agenda than they do about the lives of these young adults.
- A 2003 Pennsylvania study found "taken as a whole, this initiative was largely ineffective in reducing sexual onset and promoting attitudes and skills consistent with sexual abstinence."
- A 2004 Texas study found that before participating in an abstinence-only-until-marriage program, 23% of ninth grade girls had engaged in sexual intercourse. Following the program, 29% of the same age group reported having engaged in sexual intercourse. In addition, tenth grade boys reporting sexual intercourse increased from 24% to 39% following abstinence-only-until-marriage instruction.
One of the study's investigators said, "we didn't see any strong indications these programs were having an impact in the direction desired...these programs seem to be much more concerned about politics than kids, and we need to get over that."
- An Arizona report released in 2003 found "sexual behavior rates do not appear to be changing" as a result of the program. Despite claiming some success with short-term outcomes and "abstinence success rate" among virgins, the study concludes that "abstinence-only programs work best for sexually inexperienced youth" and that young people's "intent to pursue abstinence...showed significant decline from post-test to follow-up."
As this table shows, time after time the studies show that abstinence-only education's effectiveness drops measurably once the program ends, leaving the participants with the same degree of HIV risk as those people who received no sex education, proving the long-term ineffectiveness.
Bottom line: Applying resources into these programs instead of safe sex education is inneffective at reducing the HIV risk among the target population.
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