The effectiveness of abstinence counselling

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The Poorhouse previously ranted about the failures of the US-led Silver Ring Thing abstinence-only sex "education". Now it seems some more results are in regarding the $176,000,000 Federally-funded abstinence programmes that George "it's worked when it's tried" Bush et al. so favour.

Mathematica Policy Research Ltd have recently published a survey study carried out under instructions from the US Congress. Whilst the study itself runs to a rather humoungous 164 pages, in summary they split a bunch of the US kids that these abstinence programmes target in two and gave one of the halves a pile of abstinence counselling a la the Ring Thing, and left the other half to get on with it as they see fit.

Upon review, the 16 year old respondents who had not been given the abstinence treatment lost their virginity at a rather low - and rather illegal - age of 14.9. So is the Poorhouse going to have to swallow the anti-ring words previously spat out and learn to love the wisdom of President Bush?" Fortunately hell has not frozen over just yet. It turns out that the group of kids who had been through the intensive moral-politics-disguised-as-education abstinence courses also had a rather low age of losing virginity; the average age being 14.9. Snap.

In fact there was rather a trend of similarity noted in many of the behaviours measured in the survey.

Both control groups had the same breakdown of behaviour: 23% in both sets had had sex in the previous year and always used a condom, 17% had sex only sometimes using a condom; and 4% had sex never using one. About a quarter of each group had had sex with three or more partners.

Money (and ideology) well spent the Poorhouse is sure no-one will agree!

At least a fear of the Poorhouse's and many others is not borne out in this study; removing any formal education of contraceptives from the world-view of the child does not seem to mean they are less likely to practice safer sex - with regards to condom usage at any rate.

Nonetheless, once the myth is dispelled that abstinence-only education does actually stop people having sex, it seems the only sensible and responsible thing to do to ensure as much education about the consequences of sex, contraception, safer activities and so on is spread to those most likely to suffer from harm. Maybe the Bush administration would therefore like to consider pouring a few dollars into some of the more comprehensive multi-lateral sex education programmes and seeing if they are any more helpful with regards to reducing the harms created by sexual activities.


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