A report released Wednesday by Democratic representative Henry Waxman of California says that federally funded abstinence-only sex education programs present "false and misleading" information about HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases, condom effectiveness, and several other topics, The Washington Post reports. Waxman's staff reviewed 13 commonly used abstinence curricula and found that 11 of the programs, which are used in 25 states, contain "unproved claims, subjective conclusions, or outright falsehoods regarding reproductive health, gender traits, and when life begins."
Among some of the false and misleading claims uncovered by the investigators were that a man can impregnate a woman by touching her genitals, that women who have abortions are more prone to suicide, that 50% of gay teenagers are HIV-positive, that HIV can be spread through sweat and tears, and that condoms fail to prevent HIV and other STDs 31% of the time.
Several million children nationwide ages 9 to 18 have participated in one of the more than 100 federally funded abstinence-only sex education programs since they were launched in 1999. Federal funding for such programs has increased significantly under the Bush administration. Congress has approved $168 million for abstinence programs in 2005, more than double the amount spent in 2001.
Waxman says that based on his report's findings he is concerned that American youths are being misinformed about sex and sexuality, particularly about HIV and other STDs, which could put their health at risk. "I have no objection talking about abstinence as a surefire way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases," Waxman told the Post. "I don't think we ought to lie to our children about science. Something is seriously wrong when federal tax dollars are being used to mislead kids about basic health facts." Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a press release, "Representative Waxman's study proves what other research has already revealed--that abstinence-only programs are ineffective and harmful to young people."
Abstinence-only supporters say Waxman's report is inaccurate and that some of the statements he reports were taken out of context to show them in the worst possible light. "One thing is very clear for our children: Abstaining from sex is the most effective means of preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, STDs, and preventing pregnancy," said Alma Golden, deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services.