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Advocating Abstinence May Reduce Teen Sexual Behavior

But intervention not found to improve condom use by sexually active youth

TUESDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Abstinence programs may help to prevent sexual involvement among adolescents, according to a study in the February issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

John B. Jemmott III, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted a study of 662 African-American grade six and seven students who were randomized into one of five groups where they received eight-hour interventions targeted at abstinence alone; safer sex; abstinence, safer-sex and HIV risk reduction combined; the latter intervention but for 12 hours; or an eight-hour health promotion intervention unrelated to sexual topics.

By 24 months of follow-up, the probability of ever having had sex was lower in the abstinence intervention group at 33.5 percent, compared to 48.5 percent for the control group, the researchers found, while the abstinence intervention had no impact on condom use. Although 29 percent of control-group participants reported having sexual intercourse within the previous three months, only 20.6 percent of the abstinence intervention group reported doing so, the investigators discovered.

"Theory-based abstinence-only interventions might be effective with young adolescents but ineffective with older youth or people in committed relationships," the authors write. "For the latter, other approaches that emphasize limiting the number of sexual partners and using condoms, including the comprehensive interventions used in this trial, might be more effective."

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