COMMENT: by Babette FrancisNews Weekly
Abstinence: the new trend in sex education
, July 26, 2003
Paul Russell's article on South Australian sex education courses ("Sex Ed course leaves parents fuming:", News Weekly, July 12, 2003) leaves one amazed at how out-dated the "educators" can be.
Admittedly South Australia is a bit remote from world capitals such, as London and Washington DC, but in these days of rapid telecommunications and the internet, haven't these educators caught up with the news that abstinence is the way to go, the latest trend in sex ed?
When it comes to adolescents having sexual intercourse, the common perception seems to be, "They're going to do it anyway."
Perhaps not. According the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "[d]uring 1991-2001, the prevalence of sexual experience decreased 16% among high school students."Rapid growth
The abstinence movement in the US has grown rapidly in recent years. There are now more than one million teenagers and college students registered with True Love Waits, one of several abstinence campaigns.
One big difference between the US and Australia is the level of Federal funding. US government funding for abstinence programs should reach a record high of about $120 million this year. "This is as high as it's ever been," said Heritage Foundation analyst Robert Rector. The goal, he said, remains at least $135 million a year, which would put abstinence funding on par with spending for contraceptive education.
Outside of the United States there are signs that support for abstinence programs is growing.
Some experts say the dramatic drop in HIV/AIDS infections in Uganda is proof that abstinence from sex is the best way to combat the deadly disease, especially in the world's hardest-hit area, sub-Saharan Africa.
Infections in the East African country, which once had the highest rate in the world, have dropped from 30% of the population in the early 1990s to 10% today.
Although promotion of condom use has been a part of Uganda's HIV/AIDS prevention strategy, an abstinence-until-marriage program launched in 1994 is credited with bringing down the infection rate.
A report published in April by the Heritage Foundation provided a wealth of information on the benefits of abstinence.
The study explained the negative consequences of precocious sexual activity. Unwed teenage mothers are likely to live in poverty and be dependent on welfare, and only about 50% of them are likely to finish high school while they are adolescents or young adults.
Additionally, children born to teenage mothers are more likely than other children to have lower grades, to leave high school without graduating, to be abused or neglected, to have a child as an unmarried teenager, and to be delinquent.High-risk behaviour
The Heritage Foundation also highlighted the high risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Each year thee million teenagers - 25 per cent of sexually active teens - are infected with an STD. The report explained that if untreated, these diseases can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and ectopic pregnancy.
Studies have also found that up to 15 per cent of sexually active teenage women are infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV), an incurable virus present in nearly all cervical cancers.
The importance of a moral element in sex education programs was backed up by a recent study in the United States.
According to an April 2 press release by the National Institutes of Health, teens - particularly girls - with strong religious views are less likely to have sex than are less religious teens.
The information came from a study using information from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a comprehensive survey of 90,000 seventh- through 12th-graders.