Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The American Foundation for AIDS Research (AMFAR) has issued a new report on abstinence-only sex education that reviews all of the studies so far and concludes that such programs are not only a waste of resources, they can actually diminish the sexual health of those who undergo such training.

A rigorous published review of 28 sexuality education programs in the United
States and Canada aimed at reducing teen pregnancy and STIs (including HIV) found that none of the three abstinence-only programs that met the inclusion criteria for review demonstrated efficacy for delaying sexual debut. Furthermore, these three programs did not reduce the frequency of sex or the number of partners among those students who had ever had sex. This same review found that nine abstinence-plus programs showed efficacy in delaying sexual debut, as well as reducing the frequency of intercourse and increasing condom use once sex had been initiated.

Abstinence-plus sex ed is comprehensive sex education that teaches that abstinence is the only surefire way to prevent pregnancy and STIs, but that if you are going to have sex you should take precautions to avoid both of those things. It works far better than abstinence-only sex ed.

A federally-supported, 10-year evaluation of abstinence-only-until-marriage
programs found that these programs had no impact on youth remaining abstinent, age at first intercourse, number of sexual partners, or condom use. In fact, these programs appeared to have negative effects on knowledge: abstinence-only program participants were less likely to know that condoms can lower the risk of STIs, and more likely to report
that condoms never protect against HIV.

That has been the conclusion of every study I’ve seen on the matter. It’s time we started paying attention to the evidence and eliminate funding for this terrible idea.


  1. #1 Monado, FCD
    June 30, 2011

    In the bad old days of my youth (summer of love or no), the only contraceptive instruction that I recall from high school was a lecture about the horrible pain of childbirth, which caused one girl in the class to faint. We also had girls getting married as young as fourteen.

    In earlier times, girls were hanging themselves, going to back alley abortionists, or going away to have the baby. “Gone to an aunt’s,” they called it. And remember the 30,000 unwed mothers used as slave labour in the Irish Magdalene laundries?

    At one point an acceptable option was to throw yourself into the river and drown: remember The Bridge of Sighs?

    That’s what the old morals were all about.

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