Study shows U.S. funded abstinence-only sex education in Africa was a huge failure.
An abstinence-only sex education program in Africa funded by the U.S. and promoted by religious conservatives never showed any success, yet over a 10-year period from 2004 through 2013 the government wasted hundreds of millions of dollars promoting abstinence before marriage as a way of preventing HIV in 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Scientific American reports:
A rigorous comparison of national data from countries that received abstinence funding under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) with those that got none of the funding showed no difference in the age of first sexual experience or in the number of sexual partners or teenage pregnancies—all aspects of behaviors that have been linked to a higher risk of becoming infected with HIV.
While the study found abstinence-only sex education a failure, the study did show that one of the most important factors associated with lower levels of risky behavior was the number of years women remained in school.
In addition, the study showed that treating the HIV infection in pregnant women so they do not pass the virus onto their newborns also proved effective in slowing the spread of the virus.
Yet the data shows $1.4 billion was wasted on abstinence-only sex education.
How did this happen? In 2003, at the insistence of religious conservatives, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) had a requirement that one-third of the money be allocated to abstinence-only sex education efforts.
Reporting on the enormous waste of resources pursuing a demonstrably ineffective sex education policy, Matthew Facciani notes:
The pressure from the religious conservatives to demand abstinence-only education for our country and initiatives in other countries has only resulted in wasted money and a lost chance to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Facciani is correct. Abstinence-only sex education programs are not effective, are not educational, and rarely provide information on even the most basic topics in human sexuality such as puberty, reproductive anatomy, and sexual health.
While supporters of abstinence-only sex education often claim such programs delay sexual initiation, reduce teen pregnancy, and reduce sexually transmitted disease, the facts tell a much different story.
Bottom line: Abstinence-only sex education programs are not only ineffective, they are also dangerous and harmful. Rooted in religious ignorance and prejudice, abstinence-only sex education programs are often used as a covert vehicle to promote faith-based superstition and shame.
(H/T According To Matthew)