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Abstinence-Only Programs Fail

A British Medical Journal study finds that HIV-prevention abstinence-only programs don't work. Steve Mirsky reports.

Programs that encourage only abstinence from sex do not lower the risk of HIV infections in the United States.  That’s the conclusion of a review published by University of Oxford researchers in the August 4th issue of the British Medical Journal.

Currently, a third of all the HIV prevention funding under the US Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief goes to abstinence only programs.  Which limits funding available for other safer sex initiatives.  

The Oxford researchers reviewed 13 US-based trials that examined over 15,000 subjects.  The data suggest that abstinence only programs didn’t prevent sex or decrease frequency for those already having sex.  Nor did the programs lower the incidents of unprotected sex.  An accompanying editorial in the British Medical Journal notes that programs that promote condom use have been shown to lower the risk of HIV infection.  

The US Senate has already agreed to spend another $141 million on abstinence only programs.  Prediction: The new study will probably not change that appropriation.  Don’t expect programs based on ideology to be affected by scientific findings. 

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