Plain Dealer (Cleveland) (09.03.05) - Tuesday, September 06,
A new study of a federally funded abstinence-only program
found that while it appeared to increase students' knowledge
about abstinence, it did not influence sexual initiation or
condom use. The report, which measured the impact of For
Keeps, run by Ohio-based Operation Keepsake, is one of the few
scientifically valid studies done on abstinence education in
the United States, according to experts.
Dr. Elaine Borawski, a public health researcher at Case
Western Reserve University, and colleagues surveyed 2,069
seventh- and eighth-graders in Greater Cleveland. Half the
students received the For Keeps curriculum, which emphasizes
the emotional consequences of teenage sex and stresses the
failure rates of condoms, while the remaining students did
The researchers found that sexually active students who
participated in the five-day program reported fewer sexual
partners and sexual encounters five months later. The
curriculum, however, did not reduce the initiation of sex
Borawski said she was surprised how much For Keeps influenced
sexually active students. "Everyone says that kids who have
had sex won't find programs like this relevant," she said. "It
did seem that it resonated with them more than we thought."
"I thought [the study] did an especially good job of debunking
myths that have been raised against abstinence education,"
said Valerie Huber, manager of the abstinence education
program for the Ohio Department of Health. "It does not
withhold valuable information for teens to make good choices."
But AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland Executive Director
Earl Pike said rigorous, long-term studies are needed to prove
that abstinence-only programs work. "I wouldn't be proud to
promote that abstinence programs educate young people to avoid
proven methods, like condoms, that we know reduce risk and
save lives," said Pike.
The study, "Effectiveness of Abstinence-Only Intervention in
Middle School Teens," was published in the American Journal of
Health Behavior (2005;29(5):423-434).