General Articles

States Should Focus on Providing Comprehensive Sex Education to Young People


For Immediate Release                                                                                        Contact: Patrick Malone
August 2, 2010                                                                                               
 Statement of SIECUS President and CEO, Joseph DiNorcia, Jr., on Funding Opportunities for
Evidence-Based, Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Title V Abstinence-Only Programs
Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) for both the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) and the Title V abstinence-only program.  PREP is the first-ever dedicated funding stream for comprehensive sex education and will provide states with $55 million a year for five years for evidence-based teen pregnancy, STI, and HIV prevention programs that will also address additional adulthood preparation subjects.  The Title V abstinence-only program provides $50 million per year in funding to support abstinence-only programs—programs that extensive research has proven to be ineffective. 
We are pleased that funding for truly comprehensive sex education is finally available to the states through the new PREP program, and are looking forward to federal funding being utilized for evidence-based programs that address the full scope of what young people need in order to delay sexual activity and protect themselves from unintended pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and other STIs. PREP is the direct result of years of determined advocacy by the sexual and reproductive health and rights community, parents, public health professionals, and youth, as well as the unwavering support of many congressional champions.
However, we are still dismayed that Congress has not yet ended the harmful Title V abstinence-only program once and for all. The program originally expired at the end of June, 2009, and at the time had been rejected by nearly half the states because of the ineffective and restrictive nature of the program. The ideologically driven program was resurrected in the recent health care reform legislation. Because of the harmful and biased nature of many of the programs funded by the Title V abstinence-only program, Congress must now make this right– stopping funding for the program as soon as possible, striking the language from statute, and concentrating all federal money on science-based, medically accurate, comprehensive sexuality education programs that address the prevention needs of all young people.
While there is some new flexibility to Title V abstinence-only program, the program continues to embrace the abstinence-only-until-marriage definition. As such, states will still be able to use these funds to implement ineffective and dangerous abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.   Furthermore, states are still required to use these funds to promote abstinence to the exclusion of other topics.  States cannot use Title V abstinence-only funds to implement comprehensive sex education. The Title V abstinence-only program requires a state match of $3 to every $4 in federal funding. No state match is required for PREP funding.
AT SIECUS, we strongly believe that sexuality is a fundamental part of being human, one that is worthy of dignity and respect, and we advocate for the right of all people to accurate information, comprehensive education about sexuality, and sexual health services. Therefore, we are urging states to apply for PREP funding to support evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education programs that help young people gain the knowledge and skills they need to take personal responsibility for their sexual and reproductive health. States have until August 30th to indicate their interest to apply for either program and are required to submit complete applications for Title V by December 10, 2010 and for PREP by February 11, 2011.  
We are at a point in the national debate over sexuality education where we must decide which path ahead of us we are going to follow. We have been down the abstinence-only-until-marriage road and it has brought us nothing but stagnating sexual health statistics, misguided ideology, and wasted taxpayer dollars. It is well past time that we change our focus to making programs like PREP work to their full potential, and ensure that all young people have access to real comprehensive sexuality education.