Condom use promotion has been an important public health strategy for preventing HIV and STIs. In addition, research has indicated that when used correctly and consistently, condoms can protect against HIV/AIDS, pregnancy, gonorrhea in men, chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, and possibly HPV. Since 1998, the federal government has greatly expanded its support for abstinence-only education programs (AEO). In light of continued federal funding, concerns have been raised about the scientific accuracy of the information that is taught.
The authors, Lin and Santelli, reviewed three federally funded AEO curricula for medical accuracy, focusing on condom information. The three AEOs that were reviewed were– Me, My World, My Future (Teen Aid Inc.), Sexuality, Commitment & Family (Teen-Aid Inc.) and Why kNOw (AAA Women’s Services). The authors looked at specific statements about condoms as well as scientific references that were cited and considered the current medical understanding about the topic at the time each specific curriculum was published. Statements were categorized as “out of date, selectively reported and not peer-reviewed” and were also categorized by themes related to aspects of condom use–condom slippage and breakage, contraceptive efficacy, condoms and HIV transmission risk, youth as condom users, and condom availability and distribution (Lin and Santelli 58)
The authors found evidence of misinformation about condoms in the three AOE curricula. The three curricula conveyed the message that condoms fail to provide protection agains HIV, STIs, and pregnancy. References that were cited were out of date, from non peer-reviewed sources and the curricula would draw conclusions that went beyond the findings from the cited research. The authors conclude that the information about condoms in these curricula does not represent accurate, current, and complete medical knowledge about the the effectiveness of condoms as a form of contraception. The findings also raise important questions about the ethics of AOE promotion and the fact that students need access to medically accurate information, as a minimum.
Citation: Lin, A. J., & Santelli, J. S. (2008). The accuracy of condom information in three selected abstinence-only education curricula. Sexuality Research and Social Policy: Journal of Nsrc, 5(3), 56-69. doi:10.1525/srsp.2008.5.3.56