UCSF Policy Center Urges "Abstinence-Plus" Teen HIV Prevention

March 14, 2002
News Office: Jeff Sheehy (415) 597-8165

American teenagers are less likely to have early sexual intercourse if they have "abstinence-plus" HIV prevention education than "abstinence-only" education, according to a policy monograph delivered to Congress today by the AIDS Policy Research Center at UCSF's AIDS Research Institute.

"Abstinence-plus prevention programs exist that discourage teens from having sex while giving kids the basic information they need to protect themselves. Abstinence-only programs prohibit any discussion of barrier methods for disease prevention and studies clearly show that this `gag rule' does not work," said monograph co-author Stephen F. Morin, UCSF associate professor of medicine and director of the AIDS Policy Center at UCSF's AIDS Research Institute. The studies cited show that teenagers who received abstinence-plus education delayed sexual intercourse, had fewer sexual partners and increased condom use.

"Both abstinence-only and abstinence-plus programs promote abstinence. The fundamental question for policymakers is: `Do you give the 50 percent of American teenagers currently having sex the information they need to protect themselves?'" said monograph co-author Todd Summers, president of Progressive Health Partners, a public health consulting firm.

The monograph analyzes eight studies evaluating the effectiveness of abstinence-only and abstinence-plus prevention programs. Abstinence-only education programs advocate abstinence and do not teach about contraception or condom use. These programs avoid discussions of abortion, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HIV and homosexuality. The studies cited in the monograph show that abstinence-only programs fail to reduce STDs, HIV/AIDS and unintended pregnancies.

In contrast, abstinence-plus programs, while also encouraging abstinence, acknowledge that many teenagers become sexually active. These programs teach about contraception and condom use and include discussions about abortion, STDs, HIV/AIDS and homosexuality.

"Congress must understand that abstinence-only programs are not only a waste of money, but that they can cause real harm to people's kids," said Morin.

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