A new study published in The British Medical Journal shows that abstinence-only programs are ineffective in preventing HIV and pregnancy. The research involved 13 trials with the participation of 15,940 American youths.
The trials were conducted in American schools and focused on students in grades five through eight who were enrolled in abstinence-only sexual education classes. The researchers employed a variety of control groups, including students in programs that did not promote abstinence as the sole method of sexual protection and some in no program at all.
According to the report, the trials evaluated biological outcomes (incidence of HIV, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy) and behavioral outcomes (unprotected or protected sex, number of partners, how early students had sex the first time). When compared with control groups, abstinence-only programs had no significant effect on decreasing (or increasing) the risk of contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases and on becoming pregnant. It demonstrated no effect on delaying when youths first had sex, or reducing the risk of dangerous sexual behaviors.
The findings of this study confirm the results of other recent studies on the effectiveness of abstinence-only classes, including the government-requested study by Mathematica Policy Research released earlier this year.