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Published 3:44 pm Monday, March 19, 2007

By Staff
Abstinence is best
A panel of community leaders convened recently in Washington to discuss how to fight the spread of AIDS, particularly in eastern North Carolina where the incidence of the disease is alarmingly high. I would agree with many of the panelists who said that more education is needed to fight the stigma of AIDS and to help people understand the risks. According to the Daily news report, some panelists took this opportunity to express dissatisfaction with the teaching of abstinence education in our public schools. However, this is certainly not where the problems lay.
The name often used by those who oppose true abstinence education is “Abstinence Only.” This label is a misnomer. Abstinence Until Marriage education, if taught correctly, is much more than telling young people to “just say no.” It incorporates information about sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS and HIV. Students also learn about risk factors and strategies for avoiding these diseases.
They are told the truth about the in-use failure rate of condoms and that condoms are not 100 percent effective against STDs, AIDS and pregnancy. Young people are given a hope-filled message about why waiting until marriage to have sex is best for their lives, and how to communicate this to those that are pressuring them to have sex. They are taught that sex is more than just a physical act, but that mental, emotional, financial, and yes, even religious components should be considered.
A medically accurate, abstinence-based sex education program is the best way to help our students stay physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. Teens who abstain from sex are less likely to be depressed and to attempt suicide, are less likely get STDs, get pregnant, and live in poverty as adults. They are more likely to do well in high school and to go to college, and more likely to have stable and enduring marriages as adults. (Heritage Foundation study titled, “Teenage Sexual Abstinence and Academic Achievement” by Robert Rector and Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D.) Even if teens don’t wait until marriage to have sex, abstinence until marriage programs have been proved to delay the average onset of sexual activity. As a result, they will generally have fewer sexual partners, lessening their chance of contracting AIDS and a whole host of sexually transmitted diseases.
When faced with an epidemic of AIDS and other STDs, some are quick to dismiss abstinence without taking the time to understand what it is and measure the positive impact of successful abstinence programs. Instead, they pay lip service to abstinence while advocating the failed strategy of comprehensive sex education.
However, a close look at CSE curricula will reveal that it is not the solution. CSE promotes sexual freedom for adolescents, and then relies on condoms and other contraceptives to help negate the consequences that result. A January 2003 poll by Zogby International found that when parents are provided with the specific information on what comprehensive sex education curricula teach, they overwhelmingly reject the major themes of CSE.
These themes are already the prominent message that our young people are hearing today as evidenced by the fact that for every $12 spent on CSE programs, the federal government spends only $1 on abstinence education. (Pardue, Rector, Martin, Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, January 14, 2004.) What is not working is Comprehensive Sex Education!
The hard question we need to ask is this: Are North Carolina schools teaching state-mandated abstinence until marriage education well — or perhaps at all? No one knows, because there is no mechanism in place to monitor how abstinence is being taught in our public schools. When abstinence education is correctly implemented however, it is found to be highly effective in delaying teen sex, and this is the best way to fight the spread of HIV, AIDS and teenage pregnancy.