Major study: Sex-ed programs don’t reduce STI’s, teen pregnancy, HIV

Major study: Sex-ed programs don’t reduce STI’s, teen pregnancy, HIV


A new peer-reviewed study of multiple “sexual and reproductive health” educational programs in several countries finds no evidence of improved health outcomes in any program studied.

According to the authors of the study, “School-based interventions for preventing HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy in adolescents,” published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, “There is little evidence that educational curriculum-based programs alone are effective in improving sexual and reproductive health outcomes for adolescents.”

The study’s authors reviewed eight studies that examined sex-education programs in schools in Africa, Latin America and Europe with a total of 55,157 participants, and performed randomized controlled trials on their data. They found the programs had no measurable impact on the rate of sexually-transmitted diseases among participants or rates of pregnancy.

“In these trials, the educational programs evaluated had no demonstrable effect on the prevalence of HIV or other STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections),” the authors write, noting that in addition to HIV infection they also looked at results regarding herpes and syphilis. “There was also no apparent effect on the number of young women who were pregnant at the end of the trial,” they add.

The authors note that many studies of adolescent sex-education programs measure the programs’ effectiveness by examining their “effects on knowledge or self-reported behavior” rather than “biological outcomes” such as the rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases among program participants. In examining biological outcomes, the authors could find no benefit from such programs.

The findings of the study are consonant with other studies of “comprehensive” sex-education programs that show them to be ineffective or even counterproductive, particularly in comparison with abstinence-only programs.

A 2004 study conducted in the UK by the Family Education Trust, “Sex Education or Indoctrination,” examined teen pregnancy rates in different areas of the country to determine how they correlated with sex-education programs. It found that teenage pregnancy rates were highest in the areas that were most aggressive in promoting sex-ed.

A 2007 study conducted in the U.S. by the Institute for Research and Evaluation found that “comprehensive” sex-education programs had little impact on the behavior of teens during their education and no long-term effects whatsoever, noting “Of 50 rigorous studies spanning the past 15 years, only one of them reports an improvement in consistent condom use after a period of at least one year.”

The same study found that abstinence-based sex-education programs “can reduce teen sexual activity by as much as one half for periods of one to two years” at the conclusion of the programs.sex_education_1_810_500_55_s_c1