Advocates of comprehensive sex education have asked the Ohio health department to stop funding abstinence-only programs until there is clear evidence they are effective. "None of us think it's a good idea for 13-year-olds to be having sex," said Earl Pike, executive director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, which joined with 34 other agencies in pushing Ohio to restrict funding for abstinence education. "That's not the question. The question is what works to reduce that."
Since 2001, Ohio has received $32 million in federal and state grants for abstinence education, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Aimed at middle school and high school students, abstinence programs typically warn that condoms do not always prevent sexually transmitted diseases and that sex outside marriage may have harmful psychological consequences. According to Pike, abstinence education provides misleading or inaccurate information, mixes religion and science, is sexist, and ignores gay youth.
State health director Nick Baird responded to Pike's concerns by saying Ohio supports a number of efforts to reduce teen pregnancy and STDs, including abstinence programs. He also pointed out that in 1999 state lawmakers mandated that schools emphasize abstinence during STD prevention classes.
Teen pregnancy rates in Ohio have been declining for the past 10 to 15 years, and a 2001 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of students found that adolescents were delaying sexual intercourse or having fewer sex partners than a decade earlier. Even so, STDs have risen steadily. Chlamydia cases increased 41% between 1999 and 2004, while gonorrhea rates rose 21% during the same period. An Alan Guttmacher Institute report suggests that more girls are using birth control pills and the patch instead of condoms. This may explain why teen pregnancies are down but STDs are up, some experts believe. (AP)