Abstinence works: there’s no denying it. You simply cannot get an STI without having sexual contact. But abstinence-only sexual education? That’s a different story.
The fact of the matter is that teens and young adults are having sex. However, in the United States, teens are twice as likely to become pregnant than in other industrialized nations, and one in four college students has an STI. So what makes the U.S. so different? Its abstinence education programs, which have been federally funded since 1982.
There’s no scientific evidence that abstinence-only education reduces teen pregnancies or STIs, or that it delays sexual intercourse– just the opposite, actually. To top it off, only 13 states require that the information offered in sex education classes be medically accurate. Think back to sex-ed, or “health” class: was any of that information actually helpful? Maybe some, but most students learn about sex in different ways.
Not only does this form of sexual education limit knowledge of safe-sex practices, but it also lacks support for those individuals who are at high risk of contracting HIV, or those who might already have an STI. Another issue to mention is the negative impact on LGBT youth that these programs can have. Students are being encouraged to wait until heterosexual marriage to have sex, leaving LGBT youth out of the picture, with no information or support.
All of this impacts college life, when teens leave home and are exposed to a completely new environment, often with more opportunities for sexual encounters. Without education about safe sex practices, how are students supposed to make informed decisions about what they should or should not do when it comes to sex? Teaching ways to be safe about sex does not mean advocating that young adults and teens engage in sex. It’s simply giving individuals the resources to make that choice, in a healthy and safe manner.