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Just Say No! To Sex? March 10, 2010

Posted by Nina Harrell in Prevention, Wellness.

For years, the abstinence-only and the comprehensive sex education camps have been at war with one another concerning the best way to keep teenagers from engaging in sexual intercourse before their time.  For the first time, a study produced a hybrid solution to this lengthy debate – encourage teens to focus on life goals and how sexually transmitted infections or an unintended pregnancy can thwart those dreams.  Finally, the numbers seem to follow …

… the intended direction of the intervention.  CNN highlighted the details of this study in an editor’s choice video, and for the first time, it seems as though this may be a solution that may actually work.  33% of the kids who received the intervention engaged in sexual intercourse as opposed to 52% of the kids who received a safe sex lesson.  662 African American students in the 6th and 7th grades participated over a 24 month period.

Unlike the Just Say No to Drugs intervention, which seemed to magically increase the use of drugs amongst high school students in the United States, this abstinence (with a focus on life goals) program seems to actually work in addressing making behavioral choices that lead to more favorable consequences.

Personally, I have been in favor of a hybrid of the abstinence-only and safe sex discussions, which has been known as comprehensive sex education.  Comprehensive sex education, however, still carried this heavy safe sex message, so much that parents and faith-based groups could not see past the three-letter word in the middle.   This program, which leads with the more favorable term “abstinence” seems to do the trick while not leaving out factual information on ways to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy.

The greatest disservice that we have created in this debate is the all or nothing approach – either you have sex or you don’t.  There are teenagers who are catching and spreading STIs unwittingly because they think just because they are not having vaginal intercourse they are not at risk.  A course like this allows facilitators to address abstinence, sex and everything in between.

The next step, however, is to see how this program works in other ethnic and socioeconomic  groups.  It would also be helpful to determine if there is an age, where these groups “catch up” in terms of sexual activity or if there is a cut-off age where these programs lose effectiveness.



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