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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

OHIO: Abstinence Lessons Reap Some Benefits, Study Says


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 not.

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 among students.

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).


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