The American Medical Association released a report at its annual meeting yesterday finding that abstinence-only sex education does not result in reduced sexual activity among teens. The American Medical News reported that the Council on Science and Public Health reviewed several sex education studies and found that abstinence-only programs resulted in “no delay of initiating sexual activity, no reduction in the number of sexual partners and no increase in abstinence,” according to Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH.
The release of the AMA report comes a few weeks after the publication of a study that examined the rising teen birth rate. The rate increased in 2006 and 2007 after declining over the previous 14 years. John Santelli of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health led a team of researchers who pinpointed a decrease in contraceptive use as a main cause of the birth rate increase. The Washington Post reported that Santelli believes the decrease in contraceptive use could be due to several factors, such as reduced fear of HIV and the “recent increased focus on encouraging kids to remain abstinent until marriage instead of teaching them about contraceptives.”
The AMA recommends that federal funding should be used to support sex education programs that include abstinence, condom use, and other contraceptive methods. The report found these programs are the most effective for reducing the spread of sexually transmitted infections and the number of pregnancies among teens.