More evidence that abstinence focus doesn't work



As discussed in this week's cover story, there's a stunning lack of evidence that abstinence-until marriage programs, like the one offered by Colorado Springs-based Education for a Lifetime, actually work.

Does it work?
  • Okay, but what about other forms of protection?

Now an article by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes the case that states that mandate an emphasis on abstinence education actually have the highest rates for STDs among adolescents. States with no abstinence mandate had the highest levels, while states with mandates only requiring that abstinence be covered, not emphasized, were in the middle. (The abstract is below the fold.)

The study was published in April's International Journal of STD & AIDS. The researchers looked at
STD data from 2001 through 2005, before Colorado passed a law in 2007 that would seem to put it in the middle category.

The authors note that the high STD rates in states that emphasize abstinence could be tied to programs in those states using content "designed to arouse fear."

That, in a nutshell, is what EFL's programs do.

Sexuality education policies and sexually transmitted disease rates in the United States of America

M Hogben PhD , H Chesson PhD and S O Aral PhD

The aim of the study was to test for relationships between state-level sex educational policies and sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates. We analysed US case reports of gonorrhoea and chlamydial infection for 2001—2005 against state policies for abstinence coverage in sexuality education, using the proportion of the population per state who identified as black (aged 15—24 years) as a covariate. We also tested for effects on 15—19 year olds versus 35—39 year olds and tuberculosis rates (the latter to ensure findings applied only to STD). States with no mandates for abstinence had the lowest mean rates of infection among the overall population and among adolescents. States with mandates emphasizing abstinence had the highest rates; states with mandates to cover (but not emphasize) abstinence fell in between. Rates in some states covering abstinence changed faster than in others, as reflected in sharper declines (gonorrhoea) or slower increases (chlamydial infection). These effects were not shown for tuberculosis or 35—39 year olds. Having no abstinence education policy has no apparent effect on STD rates for adolescents. For states with elevated rates, policies mandating coverage may be useful, although policies emphasizing abstinence show no benefit.

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