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Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Policies and Programs: An Updated Position Paper of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.

J Adolesc Health; 61(3): 400-403, 2017 Sep.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-28842070

Abstract

Abstinence from sexual intercourse can be a healthy choice for adolescents, particularly if an adolescent is not ready to engage in sex. However, government programs exclusively promoting abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) are problematic from scientific and ethical viewpoints. Most young people initiate sexual intercourse as adolescents or young adults, and given a rising age at first marriage around the globe, increasingly fewer adolescents wait until marriage to initiate sex. While theoretically fully protective, abstinence intentions often fail, as abstinence is not maintained. AOUM programs are not effective in delaying initiation of sexual intercourse or changing other behaviors. Conversely, many comprehensive sexuality education programs successfully delay initiation of sexual intercourse and reduce sexual risk behaviors. AOUM programs inherently provide incomplete information and are often neglectful to sexually active adolescents; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning adolescents; pregnant and parenting adolescents; and survivors of sexual assault. Promotion of AOUM policies by the U.S. government has undermined sexuality education in the United States and in U.S. foreign aid programs to prevent HIV infection. In many U.S. communities, AOUM programs have replaced more comprehensive approaches to sexuality education.