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Accuracy, efficacy and ethics of abstinence-only programs questioned by public health experts
Date:9/16/2008

uracy and program efficacy," says Professor Kantor. "States are now lining up with the vast majority of parents and health professionals who support comprehensive health education."

"U.S. government's policies are out of step with the realities of young peoples' lives." observes Dr. Santelli. "Historical trends toward earlier sex and later marriage in the 20th Century are incongruent with abstinence-until-marriage policies and programs."

Individual Studies

Douglas Kirby assessed the impact of 56 programs on adolescent sexual behavior, comparing abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education programs. He found that most abstinence programs did not delay initiation of sex and only 3 of 9 had any significant positive effects on any sexual behavior. In contrast, about two thirds of comprehensive programs showed strong evidence that they positively affected young people's sexual behavior, including both delaying initiation of sex and increasing condom and contraceptive use among youth.

Alison Lin and John Santelli found that three commonly used, abstinence-only curricula often provide inaccurate medical information to adolescents, including false or misleading statements about the effectiveness and safety of condoms, and inflate the actual failure rate of condoms, suggesting that using condoms is somewhat like playing "Russian roulette" with HIV. Study results are consistent with earlier reviews that found medical inaccuracies throughout a wide sample of abstinence-only program curricula.

Marissa Raymond and colleagues explore the reasons that many states have rejected federal abstinence-only funds. Refusal states generally cite concerns about the efficacy and accuracy of abstinence-only curricula. Those states also tend to have progressive governments and strong advocates for comprehensive sexuality education. As of August 2008, 25 states had opted out of Title V funding including Alaska, Arizona, California
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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