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National News

Report Finds No Evidence that Abstinence-Only Counseling Prevents Teen Sex, Pregnancy, Disease

April 24, 2002

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

There is still no evidence that abstinence-only programs prevent teen sex, pregnancy or disease, the government reported, as Congress debates whether to renew an abstinence-only initiative. These programs have multiplied in the five years since Congress directed almost half a billion dollars to the effort, but an evaluation aimed at determining whether they work will have no definitive results for years, said an interim report released Tuesday.

The report found the programs offer teens a variety of activities, although they have trouble getting parents and local schools involved. It also found that, despite claims by advocates, no reliable evidence exists on whether the programs work. "Most studies of abstinence education programs have methodological flaws that prevent them from generating reliable estimates of program impacts," the report said.

The abstinence-only initiative, created in the 1996 welfare overhaul, has caused heated debate because it bars any discussion of condoms or birth control other than to explain their limitations. Congress is deliberating whether to renew the program for five more years, as President Bush wants, or to allow the money to be spent on a broader range of activities. Several Democrats said at a House hearing yesterday they were disturbed by the program, but most Republicans defended it. Following the subcommittee's debate, the full House Commerce Committee is scheduled to vote today on renewing the program.

The interim report, written by independent researchers [Mathematica Policy Research, under contract to the Department of Health and Human Services] also found:

  • In 1999, about half of high school students, and nearly two-thirds of graduating seniors, reported having had sex. This represents a small decline from previous years, but there is a lack of evidence that abstinence-only programs are responsible.

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  • Programs incorporated many messages other than abstinence, such as building self-esteem, aspiring to healthy marriages, decision-making skills, withstanding peer pressure, and developing goals.

  • Many programs try to bridge the gap in parent-child communications by engaging parents in programs or getting teens to feel more comfortable talking to their parent about sex, but there has been little success.

  • "Despite widespread parent enthusiasm for programs, getting more than a small fraction actively involved has proven to be a major challenge for virtually all programs," the report said.

  • Establishing partnerships with schools is difficult, both because of competing priorities and debate over sex education policies.


Back to other CDC news for April 24, 2002

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Associated Press
04.24.02; Laura Meckler

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 
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