- The Washington Times - Friday, May 27, 2005

Favorable research on five abstinence programs, including one criticized by a Democratic congressman, were presented yesterday at a conference on sex education.

The findings will help build a case for the validity of abstinence programs, said Dr. Joe McIlhaney, founder of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, an Austin, Texas-based nonprofit scientific organization that seeks to promote “healthy” sexual decisions, including sexual abstinence. The institute sponsored the conference, which ends today.

In their research on the Choosing the Best abstinence program, researchers Stan E. Weed, Nicole Anderson and Lynn Tingle compared about 200 Georgia middle-school students who attended the program with 140 peers who received four state-approved abstinence lectures in class.

The students who completed the interactive, multilesson Choosing the Best program scored significantly higher on abstinence issues than the control group.

But the most significant finding came a year later, when the students in both groups were asked if they had started having sexual intercourse. Only 11 percent of the Choosing the Best students said they had sexual intercourse, compared with 21 percent of the control group.

The research shows that the Choosing the Best abstinence program has “significant” short-term and long-term effects, program founder Bruce Cook said.

It may also mean that abstinence lectures may not be enough to get results, Mr. Weed and his colleagues write. Abstinence programs may need to be well-designed, long-term, interactive and taught by motivated teachers to be effective, they conclude.

Data on four other abstinence programs — Teen STAR, Worth the Wait, the Choice Game Curriculum and Peers Educating Peers about Positive Values — were also presented yesterday.

“What we’re interested in is a scientific basis for finding the truth,” said Dr. Paul Rose, president of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health. “Our goal is to present a forum and the data will speak for itself.”

However, there is some skepticism about abstinence education. In December, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, issued a report criticizing 11 federally funded abstinence programs, including Choosing the Best.

Two-thirds of these programs “teach adolescents false and misleading information about reproductive health,” Mr. Waxman’s report states, which also questions the wisdom of using government money to fund such programs.

Dr. McIlhaney said yesterday said that many of the Waxman abstinence citations were of “deleted” materials from curriculums or Web pages, and that the new research shows that Choosing the Best and other programs “are valid.”

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