By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Teaching about condoms doesn’t increase sexual activity and certainly doesn’t increase unprotected sex, but abstinence-only ed does both. For example, a Minnesota Department of Health study of the state’s five-year, abstinence-only program found last year that sexual activity by students taking the program actually doubled, from 5.8 percent to 12.4 percent.
Even more alarming, a study by Columbia University Department of Sociology chairman Peter Bearman of the sex lives of 12,000 adolescents from 12 to 18 years old over a five-year period found unsafe sex much greater among youth who’d signed pledges to abstain from sex until (heterosexual) marriage (a key component of most abstinence only–based education programs, which leave gay kids, who can’t get married in 49 states, to face a lifetime of chastity).
The Columbia study, released last March and financed in part by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, showed that while 59 percent of teenage males who did not pledge abstinence used a condom during sex, only 40 percent of abstinence-pledging boys used a condom. As Bearman told The New York Times, telling teens “to ‘just say no,’ without understanding risk or how to protect oneself from risk, turns out to create greater risk” of HIV and other STDs. In his study, 88 percent of those who’d pledged chastity reported having sex before marriage. The large Bearman study confirms one published in the American Journal of Sociology in 2001, which showed that pent-up sexual desire and failure to realize risk exposure among students in abstinence-only programs made them a third less likely to use condoms than others, even if, on average, they began having sex a year and half later.
All those numbers help explain why the new CDC regs are causing outrage and anguish among leaders in the AIDS community. “Kids are being taught that condoms don’t work, while real life-saving HIV education is being eviscerated across the board,” fumes Sean Strub, founder of POZ, the magazine for the HIV-positive community. And, Strub points out, the Bush administration has hamstrung AIDS organizations, “which are faced with the terrible choice of prioritizing care for existing HIV-positive clients over speaking out against the new CDC rules and risking losing their federal funding.”
There’s only a tiny window of opportunity to try to get the new CDC censorship rules changed before they go into effect (the deadline for public comments is August 16 — they may be e-mailed to HIVComments@cdc.gov or faxed to 404-639-3125.) But when the regs begin to be felt, just watch already-rising AIDS infection rates really soar.
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