Washington Times (09.05.07) - Wednesday, September 05, 2007
A US Department of Health and Human Services-sponsored study
of the effects of a supplemental abstinence program found that
teens who participated in the Life Skills Education program
were more likely to support an abstinent lifestyle. However,
the teens' sexual behaviors were no different than teenagers
who did not take the classes.
Christopher Trenholm, a researcher with Mathematica Policy
Research Inc., which conducted that study, said that all 604
participants took Heritage Keepers' core abstinence education
classes, while half participated in Heritage's supplemental
abstinence reinforcement program. When compared to the control
group, the Life Skills teens were significantly more likely to
support abstinence messages and say they expected to abstain
from sex at least through high school if not until marriage.
"That's an important starting point," said Trenholm. "You
would not expect to see behavioral changes down the road if
you didn't see changes" in expectations.
Yet, 40 percent of both groups reported having sex at least
once. In addition, no differences were found in what age they
first had sex or in the average number of sex partners.
According to Martha Kempner of the Sexuality Information and
Education Council of the United States, the study shows that
"if it's a bad message, you can pound it into a kid's head
every day throughout a school year and it's still not going to
make a difference."
Kempner said she was particularly distressed about the teens'
lack of knowledge about condom efficacy. Scientific evidence
shows that latex condoms, when used properly, are highly
effective in preventing HIV transmission, a fact that the
teens still did not know, she noted.
Heritage Keepers receives funding from the federal Title V
Abstinence Education program, which is up for renewal later
this month. A House-passed bill extends the $50 million-a-year
program for two years but, for the first time, allows states
to use the money for other kinds of sex education. The Senate
has not acted on the legislation.