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Abstinence

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The act of staying away from, usually alcohol or sexual relations.

Abstinence education and HIV

  • Each year, half of all new HIV infections in the United States are among individuals under age 25.
  • Two young Americans under the age of 25 are infected with HIV every hour, resulting in 20,000 new infections per year among young people.
  • Yet federal funding trends support abstinence-only education rather than comprehensive abstinence and sexual health education programs that prepare teenagers for the world outside their classrooms.
  • By graduation, 65 percent of all high school seniors report having had sex. Full knowledge of the options available to adolescents, from abstinence to safer sex, is important in empowering young people, influencing the choices they make about sex, and preventing new HIV infections. Abstinence-only programs do not meet the needs of America’s youth in their quest for the information and skills necessary to make good decisions and stay healthy.

Abstinence only programs versus abstinence plus education

  • While abstinence-only programs focus exclusively on abstaining from sexual activity until marriage, abstinence-plus programs seek to educate individuals about all facets of sexual health with a focus on abstinence.
  • Information regarding the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV, is discussed in addition to highlighting the option of abstaining from sexual activity until marriage. Research has shown that comprehensive sex education programs that discuss both abstinence and protection from sexually transmitted diseases actually delay the onset of sexual intercourse, reduce the frequency of intercourse, and reduce the number of sexual partners.

How Abstinence-Plus Education Works?

  • Comprehensive sexuality education that advocates abstinence yet provides education for those teens that choose to become sexually active has proven practical and effective.
  • Abstinence-plus education, which provides a range of information and options for young people from abstinence to safer sexual behavior, does not increase sexual activity or lower the age of a young person’s first sexual encounter.
  • There is no evidence that abstinence-only education is effective in preventing or delaying sexual activity.
  • In fact, a recent abstinence-only initiative in California actually resulted in more students reporting sexual activity after participating in the program.
  • Concerns that discussing explicit sexual information with youth would result in an increase in sexual activity or early initiation of sex among youth have proven unfounded. =

Parental education of teens

  • Parents who engage their children in frank discussions of STD and HIV risk are quite effective: A study of mother-adolescent communication regarding HIV demonstrated an increase in condom use only for teens whose mothers had talked to them about condoms before they became sexually active.
  • Similarly, a survey of 522 African-American adolescent girls found that those girls who regularly discussed sex with their parents were significantly less likely to engage in behavior that placed them at risk for HIV and much more likely to bring up STD/HIV prevention with sexual partners than girls whose parents did not discuss sex, STDs, and HIV.

Current Trends and Programs

  • Comprehensive sexuality education helps to minimize behavior that places adolescents at risk for HIV, and it is in demand among American youth. Most teens know about HIV transmission, but they want to know more about protecting themselves against HIV.
  • Today’s teens need information about sexual behavior and HIV/AIDS.



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