The federal government has made a significant move to name monogamy and abstinence as “the most reliable way” to protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The major shift in position comes in a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In “Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines 2015,” the CDC states: “The most reliable way to avoid transmission of STDs is to abstain from oral, vaginal, and anal sex or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner known to be uninfected.”
In the 2010 version of the treatment guidelines for STDs, the CDC wrote, “A reliable way to avoid transmission of STDs is to abstain from oral, vaginal, and anal sex or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.”
Both the 2010 and 2015 reports state that “counseling that encourages abstinence from sexual intercourse” is “crucial” for individuals who are being treated for an STD until their entire course of medication is completed.
In addition to abstinence and monogamy, the CDC also encourages counseling and condom use.
According to the CDC, the U.S. health care system spends $16 billion annually on STDs and estimates 20 million new infections each year.
While the CDC may have shifted its stance on abstinence as “the most reliable” protection against STDs, the Heritage Foundation has consistently made the case for maintaining abstinence education over “safe sex” and contraception education for teens.
In 2009, Katherine Bradley and Christine Kim at Heritage observed that as President Obama and the then-Democrat-led House were about to eliminate abstinence education funding from the budget, and instead create another teen sex education program, HHS had just spent in 2008 “$4 on programs that promote ‘safe sex’ and contraception to teens for every $1 spent on abstinence education.”
The writers cited research demonstrating that abstinence-based programs have been effective in reducing teen sexual activity, an outcome that not only decreased exposure to STDs, but also was found to be associated with higher academic achievement, and greater psychological well-being.
In 2012, Kim wrote that, despite the mainstream media image of the abundance of sexual activity among teens, over the last two decades teens have grown more likely to remain sexually abstinent.
“According to the 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 53 percent of high school students have remained abstinent, an increase of 15 percent, and two in three are currently abstinent,” she observed.
Additionally, the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) found that the Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) – or abstinence-centered – approach is effective, supported by both parents and an increasing number of teens, and consistent with other public health initiatives for teens such as anti-smoking, anti-drinking, anti-drug, and anti-violence programs that have also been effective.
“Largely misrepresented, SRA education is more than just about saying ‘no,’” says NAEA. “Abstinence-centered and holistic, the SRA strategy offers skill-building topics such as goal setting and future orientation, healthy decision making, building assets, avoiding negative peer pressure, and human development.”
The sexual risk reduction (SRR) model, however, NAEA states, “is built on the premise that teens either cannot, or will not, abstain from sex; therefore they must learn to take ‘precautions’ that will decrease their risk of becoming pregnant,” or becoming infected with an STD.
The American College of Pediatricians strongly endorses abstinence-centered sex education and recommends school systems adopt abstinence programs instead of “comprehensive sex education,” or SRRs.
“Programs that teach sexual abstinence until marriage are about much more than simply delaying sexual activity,” the College asserts. “They assist adolescents in establishing positive character traits, formulating long-term goals, and developing emotionally healthy relationships.”
“These programs increase the likelihood of strong marriages and families – the single most essential resource for the strength and survival of our nation,” it adds.