amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

House Committee Holds Hearing on Abstinence-Only Programs

May 14, 2008—Led by Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), on April 23 the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held the first oversight hearing on the effectiveness of federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

Three panels of witnesses testified on the ineffectiveness of the programs, including leading medical and sexual health experts. Representatives from other organizations also submitted written testimony to the committee, including amfAR CEO Kevin Frost.

Abstinence-only programs are a cornerstone of the federal government’s teen pregnancy prevention and HIV prevention strategies. Since 1982, more than $1.5 billion in federal funds has been spent on these programs, which prohibit discussions of contraceptives, including condoms, except in the context of failure rates.

But mounting scientific evidence over the course of the past several years has shown that abstinence-only programs have no positive effect on the sexual behavior of youth. Instead, research reveals that comprehensive sex education programs hold the greatest promise for HIV prevention, lowering rates of teen pregnancy, and decreasing sexually transmitted infections.

“Because the sense of urgency surrounding HIV/AIDS has turned into generalized public and political complacency, young people may be more likely to have misconceptions about HIV/AIDS, including the modes of transmission and the ways of preventing HIV infection,” said Frost in his written testimony. “In order to correct these misconceptions, our public health policies must be based on scientific evidence rather than ideology. To do otherwise ignores the rights and realities of young people and denies them the knowledge needed to safeguard their health.”

amfAR is a longtime advocate of providing youth with the comprehensive information needed to make healthy choices and reduce their risk of HIV infection.

To read the full testimonies of all witnesses at the hearing, see