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Abstinence-Only Sed Education

Jul 29, 2006

Hey Dr. Bob,

Apparently Dubya is still pouring money into Abstinence-only sex education. Does this work or is "The Decider" wrong about this just as he's been so wrong about everything else?

Thanks for keeping it real Dr. Bob

Response from Dr. Frascino


Well, if there is one thing we all know all too well about Dubya's simplistic view of life it's that he values consistency. The man has never changed his mind about anything, much to the detriment of world peace, the economy, the environment and HIV-prevention efforts. Yes, Dubya is consistent. Too bad it's consistently wrong. The abstinence-only sex education policy is just one more shining example of his ineptitude and its unfortunate consequences. Here's the scoop:

The U.S. has supported abstinence-only programs to prevent unwanted teen pregnancies since 1981. Under Dubya's rule such programs have expanded dramatically to encompass HIV/AIDS and STD prevention. Dubya then forced this policy on the international community in 2003 with the implementation of his "President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)", which categorically mandates that one third of all prevention dollars allocated to 15 focus countries be earmarked for "abstinence-only" programs! Shocking, eh?

In the U.S., funding for abstinence-only programs has increased from $80 million in 2001 to $167 million in 2005. It is the cornerstone of the government's HIV-prevention strategy (or, as Dubya calls it, "strategery"). So is it successful? Does it stack up favorably to other prevention methods for which there are no targeted federal programs or funding? Let's take a look!

First I should remind everyone what abstinence-only programs really are. These programs teach "no sexual intercourse until marriage". (As an aside please note that since Dubya doesn't want gays like me to ever marry, I guess that means I should never have sex.) These federally funded programs must, by definition, have as their "exclusive purpose, teaching the social, psychological and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity until marriage" and must teach "that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity" and that "sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects!!!" (No shit. I'm not making this stuff up, even though it sounds like a Jon Stewart Daily Show parody!) These programs are also prohibited from discussing contraception or STD prevention technologies, such as condoms, except in reference to their failure rates!!!!

There are also "abstinence-plus" programs. These programs strongly encourage abstinence among young people, but also provide information about contraception and STD-risk reduction. In addition to endorsing delay of sexual debut, abstinence-plus programs aim to increase knowledge about the use of contraception and disease-prevention methods among those who do become sexually active.

A scientifically rigorous evaluation of the efficacy of these programs has not been formally carried out. Some studies have tried to objectively assess these programs, but most have measured only attitudinal, rather than behavioral, outcomes. At best, the key behavioral outcome would suggest these programs might delay sexual debut by 12 to 18 months tops.

The results from a systemic review, in which data and outcomes from several studies are combined and analyzed together, have yielded the following results:

1. The most rigorous published review to date (28 sex education programs in the U.S. and Canada) found that none of the three "abstinence-only" programs demonstrated evidence of efficacy for delaying initial sexual activity.

2. Furthermore these three programs did not reduce the frequency of sex or the number of sex partners among those students who had sex.

3. The same review found the nine "abstinence-plus" programs showed efficacy in delaying initial sexual activity as well as reducing the frequency of intercourse and increasing condom use once sex began.

4. A different systemic review of the efficacy of AIDS-risk-reduction interventions for adolescents found that only two out of six studies showed any efficacy in delaying initial sexual activity among virgins and an increase in "secondary" abstinence (return to abstinence) among those who had been sexually active.

5. A review of 11 school-based HIV-prevention programs for youth in Africa fond only one program was effective in delaying initial sexual activity.

6. There was no significant difference in STD rates between "virginity pledgers" and non-pledgers.

Taken in total, the scientific data we have to date does not support Dubya's current policy of making "abstinence-only-until-marriage" programs the cornerstone of the U.S. government's HIV-prevention strategy for young people. Nor does it support the rapid and dramatic increase in funding to promote these programs in the U.S. or globally. Rather, the scientific evidence suggests that investing in comprehensive sex education that includes support for abstinence, but also provides risk-reduction information would be a more effective HIV-prevention strategy for youth.

So, once again, our immutable president, "The Decider," has decided wrongly!

Dr. Bob

Fetish: Armpit lickin' Good
Symptoms do not equal HIV.

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