Abstinence Programs Increase Sexual Risk Taking Among Rural Youth

In North Carolina, the rate of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases is extremely high among African Americans. Specifically, African Americans make up slightly more than 20% of the entire population, but they represent more than half of the individuals living with HIV/AIDS in the state. North Carolina has tried to prevent the further growth of HIV/AIDS by implementing abstinence programs in the schools. But research has shown that these programs have done little to decrease the epidemic of HIV/AIDS and sexual risk taking among rural North Carolina youth. Despite the fact that many parents want their children to be educated about safe sexual practices, little has been done to accommodate these desires. Children and parents who are in communities at increased risk for HIV/AIDS believe that the current policies are actually adding to the dilemma. In an effort to gauge the community’s perception and belief about the current sexual abstinence programs, Stacey W. Lloyd, a research associate at RTI International in North Carolina, conducted focus groups that gathered opinions from a sample of 93 teens and parents, primarily African American, living in rural areas.

The results revealed that the majority of the participants believed that the existing abstinence before marriage program did little to help address the crisis of HIV/AIDS in the community. The youth reported that although they received some sex education in school, it was primarily focused on women’s issues and was offered as an elective course, which enabled many of the males to opt out. In addition, the limited safe sex education that was provided was only available in junior high school. Parents and students believe that sex education classes should be introduced as early as elementary school because many children become sexually active well before their teen years. The participants also expressed a desire to have classes taught by a medical or health expert, rather than a teacher from the school. They believed that learning from a professional in the medical field, or someone living with a sexually transmitted disease, would have more impact than learning from a staff educator. Lloyd said, “The perspectives presented in this study illustrate a broad disconnect between the needs of the African Americans in this community and the policies that affect their access to health education.” Overall, the findings clearly demonstrate the importance of considering the input of those being served when designing programs to address social and medical needs.

Reference:
Lloyd, S. W., Ferguson, Y. O., Corbie-Smith, G., Ellison, A., Blumenthal, C., Council, B. J., et al. (2012). The role of public schools in HIV prevention: Perspectives from African Americans in the rural south. AIDS Education & Prevention 24.1, 41-53.

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  • Louise

    Louise

    April 10th, 2012 at 4:21 AM

    This kind of education is for the home and the churches, not for the school districts to feel pressured into.

    Why aren’t parents not stepping up and talking to their kids about this information? This is not something that is going to go away, and parents can’t pretend like it is.

    And stop talking like it has to be taught in schools. Teachers are parents, but they have to be parents to their own kids, and I should not expect them to be a parent to mine.

  • celeste

    celeste

    April 10th, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    But what are we to do when parents are falling down on their job? Yes this is probably something that should be taught in the home, but if it isn’t and we have to assume that in many cases it is not being talked about, then what are we to do? The schools and the social programs in the community have to get involved if we are ever to have any chance of beating these issues like HIV and teen pregnancy that continue to plague us. Obviously the message needs to change with the times though. For most kids the idea of remaining abstinent until marriage is no longer something that they see as being a possibility for them. Okay, so if that is how they are thinking why are we sill preaching this to them? If they are going to be sexually active then give them the information that they need to at least do it safely.

  • Becca Crowe

    Becca Crowe

    April 11th, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    There has to be a good program around that can address all of the different issues pertaining to teen sex and the consequences of that without sounding overly preachy. I think that one of the big things is that we have for too long talked to kids like they are stupid when in fact many of them are far more educated about sex than we give them credit for. Tney know what they are doing, but they find it hard to control those emotions and feelings. I remember being 16 and feeling exactly the same way. I was lucky that I had great friends and families and did not feel like I would lose everything in the world if I was not ready and told a guy no. But what about the girls who place their whole value on this one guy and how he feels about her. Don’t you think it might be kind of tough for her to say no and risk losing him? I think it is, so what we need to do is find classes that will build up their self-esteem and self-worth enough so that they are ok with saying no and facing the consequences of what happens either way. Let’s fid a way to let these teens develop pride in who they are and what they believe, and I promise much of this behavior will stop.

  • Jordan Mckiver

    Jordan Mckiver

    June 19th, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    Abstinence Programs are very helpful, but when it comes down to the long stretch it doesn’t help in rural nor urban areas. I feel that it is the shows that most people are exposed to that increase these number and not the programs i kind of feel this is what is causing this. when i was younger i watched cartoons but then the decline of decent cartoons got me to watching different shows, music and movies. most of the songs, shows, and movies encourage sex . this increases teens urges to have sex because one of the shows i watch now days like America Best Dance Crew uses elements of sex in the show. Also when they have a show like 16 & pregnant this also encourages more people because this show is still having seasons so that is showing that the abstinence programs aren’t helping nor encouraging sex before marriage.

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