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Healthy Respect Media Release

National Abstinence Conference Evaluates Progress, Expresses Concerns

February 12, 2009 -- The National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) met in the nation's capital last week to assess progress, evaluate effectiveness and chart a course forward as we begin to work with a new president and Congress.

Dr. Nanci Coppola, Executive Director of the New York-based Healthy Respect program, took part in the meeting as a newly appointed member of the NAEA Advisory Board.

"These are significant times for abstinence until marriage programs as we face a new administration and a Congress that do not clearly see the benefits of our programs for the health and future of our children," Dr. Coppola said after the meeting. "Yet we must adapt to the changing atmosphere and show the positive results we have achieved with very limited government funding."

NAEA Members from across the nation met to renew their dedication to abstinence education and learn new skills in providing a successful program. Members were made aware of new resources and were given opportunities to learn best practices from one another. They left with a united commitment to defend and expand the opportunities youth have to receive quality abstinence programs. A number of new resources and services were unveiled at the conference, which will help members successfully fulfill the objectives of their abstinence program.

Among the speakers were Valerie Huber, Executive Director of the NAEA, who presented the challenges faced by abstinence education, and Dr. Stan Weed, Director of the Institute for Research and Evaluation, who debunked the media myth of the relative success of condom-based sex ed when compared to abstinence education.

Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, a consistent champion of abstinence education, spoke about "Bringing Common Sense to the Sex Ed Debate."

Ms. Huber said that her organization will continue to present the positive results of abstinence education to lawmakers and educators throughout the nation, and to counter the prevalent media bias against abstinence by disseminating the facts based on peer-reviewed studies.

She also said that parents need to express their concerns to educators and lawmakers over the lack of effectiveness of most sex ed programs and their preference for abstinence education.

Dr. Weed presented his findings that compare abstinence education to the more widespread comprehensive sex education that stresses condom and contraceptive use.

He pointed out that there is a common misconception among lawmakers and educators that comprehensive sex ed achieves its purpose while abstinence education does not.

Yet, he said, scientific evaluation of studies shows that this is far from true. Comprehensive sex ed, in fact, fails to achieve the very low goals that advocates set for it - yet the media very rarely looks into or reports the facts. On the other hand, negative media reports on abstinence education very quickly make national news.

For example, Dr. Weed said, a careful evaluation of 112 peer-reviewed studies on comprehensive sex ed covering 20 years showed that no school or curriculum-based comprehensive sex ed program showed an increase in the number of teens who used condoms consistently - that is, with every sexual encounter - over a one-year period. The same study showed that no comprehensive program showed a decrease in teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases over any period of time.

In other words, comprehensive sex ed programs fail to produce the very simple results that they themselves claim they are in business for -- consistent condom use and reduction of teen pregnancy and STDs.

Regarding abstinence education programs, Dr. Weed continued, the data is relatively new, but a couple of peer-reviewed studies indicate that teens who receive abstinence education were half as likely to have engaged in sex one year later.

The common media-hyped claim that abstinence education programs do not work is false. The problem is that any evidence that even a small percentage of teens who take abstinence education later engage in premarital sex is reported as an absolute failure. Whereas the media hardly notices the fact that teens in comprehensive programs are failing to use condoms consistently and driving up the numbers of a sexually transmitted disease epidemic among youths.

"We need to get this message out before lawmakers make their decisions, regarding abstinence education, based on biased information" Dr. Coppola said after the conference.