Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sex ed fails to raise teen abstinence

Sex ed fails to raise teen abstinence

Maggie Fox, Washington
April 16, 2007

ABSTINENCE-only education programs meant to teach children to avoid sex until marriage fail to control their sexual behaviour, a US Government report says.

Teenagers who took part in the programs were just as likely to have sex as those who did not, the survey found.

The report, ordered by Congress, was not released by the Health and Human Services Department, but by activists and a California Democratic congressman, Henry Waxman.

The report revived debate on government abstinence-only education programs, which are strongly supported by President George Bush's Administration.

"For both the program and control group youth, the reported mean age at first intercourse was identical, 14.9 years," says the report.

Teens in both groups were just as likely to use condoms or birth control — countering critics of abstinence-only education, who say children ignorant of how to protect themselves from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases will have more unprotected sex.

For the report, Christopher Trenholm and colleagues at Mathematica Policy Research interviewed more than 2000 teenagers with an average age of 16½, living in rural and urban communities. About 1200 had taken part in abstinence-only education programs four to six years before.

"Over the last 12 months, 23 per cent of both groups reported having had sex and always using a condom; 17 per cent of both groups reported having had sex and only sometimes using a condom; and 4 per cent of both groups reported having had sex and never using a condom," the researchers wrote.

About 25 per cent in both groups had already had sex with three or more partners.

"This data supports what a growing body of public health evidence has indicated: abstinence-only programs don't protect teen health," said Mr Waxman. "In short, American taxpayers appear to have paid over 1 billion federal dollars for programs that have no impact."

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