Skipped pills and popped condoms aren’t the only suspects of birth control and sexually transmitted disease issues.
No, perhaps the wickedest culprit of today’s less-than-ideal sexual health and reproduction predicament is silence.
The abstinence-only education versus comprehensive sex education debate is timeless. Ethics and morals always come into play, but the matter of effectiveness should not be overlooked.
One study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc.,“Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs,” found abstinence-only programs “show no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence.”
So it’s possible abstinence education could be equivalent to no sex education, with regard to effectiveness and impact.
Another report by the United States House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, “The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs,” found a disturbing high of over 80 percent of abstinence-only curricula contain “false” or “distorted” information.
I’ll list one of the worst errors mentioned. One curriculum suggested condoms actually don’t help prevent the spread of STDs. The study lists quite a few other outrageous ones if you’re looking for something to read and you want a laugh.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why abstinence-only programs do nothing to help prevent STDs or unplanned pregnancy.
Those who might pledge abstinence may be less likely to consider or even know about precautions. Such attitudes set people up for unprepared and unprotected sex.
Clear evidence from the study, “Emerging Answers: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases,” by Kirby Douglas, supports the idea that comprehensive sex education helps improve smart and safe sex practices.
I’ve also noticed a significant correlation between teen pregnancy rates and STD infection rates within states that may be more in favor of abstinence-only education.
Mississippi was recently deemed the most conservative state in the nation. Guess who turns out to be the state ranked highest for teen birth rates, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website? Bingo.
Additional highly conservative states like Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas all sport rather high teen-birth rates. Alabama is No. 10; Louisiana, No. 6; Oklahoma, No. 5; and Arkansas, No. 3.
Also, many highly-ranked conservative states correspond with states having the highest concentrations of STDs.
This correlation is consistent with statistics gathered from Centers for Disease Control data by a Men’s Health Magazine article, “America’s Most STD-Infested States,” by Madeline Haller.
This isn’t a coincidence; it has got to have something to do with abstinence-only education policies and attitudes.
One last additional note: While Utah is ranked in the lower half of teen-birth rates in the U.S as No. 37, there’s still room for improvement.
Just last year, a Utah bill banning public schools from teaching contraception as pregnancy and STD protection passed. Had Gov. Gary Herbert not vetoed it, the bill would have been the first of its kind to exist in the nation.
So, while we do, in fact, live in a state that acknowledges abstinence-only education as probably not the best idea ever, many Utah citizens still squirm at the idea of comprehensive sex education.
Compared to other states, Utah’s required sex education curriculum is still rather muffled.
With St. George perhaps one of the more conservative cities in the state, muted sex education and abstinence-only attitudes may certainly contribute to local sexual health issues.
In order to slight silence’s grip that may still be suppressing today’s sexual health, citizens should be aware of what forms of sex education actually make a difference and which ones don’t.
Individuals alone can also help improve sex health issues. People can spread more ideas about healthy sex practices simply by adopting a more open and accepting attitude about the discussion of sex.
Pulling the concept of sex from the forbidden shadows can and will prevent misconceptions and ignorant behavior.
Contribute to the cause: Start discussions among your friends, family and peers. Ask questions. Stamp out the shyness and silence that troubles today’s sexual health situation.
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