Home Others Abstinence-only education is a failure

Abstinence-only education is a failure

Child and youth health, health policy, maternal and reproductive health22. August 2017Two new publications highlight the scientific and ethical shortcomings of the abstinence-only-until-marriage approach.

Two scientific reviews find that abstinence-to-marriage programs and guidelines are ineffective in the United States because they do not delay sexual initiation or reduce risky sexual behaviors. According to the researchers, these programs also violate youth human rights, withhold medically correct information, stigmatize or exclude many youth, reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, and undermine public health programs. Both papers are published online in the Journal of Youth Health.
The weight of the scientific evidence shows that these programs do not help young people delay the onset of sexual intercourse, says co-author John Santelli, professor of population and family health at the Mailman School.While abstinence is theoretically effective, in practice the intentions to abstain from sexual activity often fail.These programs simply do not prepare young people to avoid unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases.

To examine current US policy on abstinence-to-marriage programs, investigators drew on multiple sources, including academic research, reviews, and information from human rights organizations. They report that aThe rapidly increasing age at first marriage has resulted in a drop in the number of young people who do not have sex before marriage. In the United States, the difference between the ages of first sex and first marriage is now 8.7 years for young women and 11.7 years for young men.

Approaches of abstinence only until marriage have thrown back efforts in sex education, family planning and HIV prevention. Between 2002 and 2014, the proportion of schools in the United States that had to learn about human sexuality from students decreased from 67 to 48 percent and the requirements for HIV prevention decreased from 64 percent to 41 percent. In 1995, 81 percent of adolescent men and 87 percent of adolescent women reported having received formal training on contraceptive methods; In 2011-2013 only 55 percent of young men and 60 percent of young women said the same thing.

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In contrast, comprehensive sex education programs have positive effects on adolescent behavior, including sexual initiation, number of sexual partners, frequency of sexual activity, condom and contraceptive use, frequency of unprotected sexual activity, STIs, and pregnancy.
Young people have a right to sex education, which will give them the information and skills they need to stay safe and healthy, says Leslie Kantor, assistant professor of population and family health at the Mailman School of Public Health and vice president of education at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Withholding important health information from young people is a violation of their rights. Abstinence-to-marriage-only programs leave all young people unprepared and are particularly harmful to young people who are sexually active, LGBTQ or have experienced sexual abuse.

WhileAbstinence-only programs are largely opposed by health professionals caring for young people, including the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine,Congress spent over $ 2 billion on domestic abstinence programs between 1982 and 2017; The current funding is $ 85 million per year. Under current guidelines, states cannot use funds to educate adolescents about contraceptive use or discuss contraceptive methods except to highlight failure rates.

Promoting the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents should be based on science, public health principles and human rights, says Santelli. Abstinence-only until marriage as the basis of health policies and programs should be abandoned.
Co-authors representing the Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina; Guttmacher Institute; University of Massachusetts Amherst; National Children's Medical Center, George Washington University Medical Center; University of York, North Yorkshire, England; Altarum Institute, Rockville, Maryland; and Indiana University. The authors do not report any conflicts of interest.

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