GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is a proud supporter of today’s World AIDS Day, an annual event to bring attention to the global HIV/Aids epidemic. Education continues to play a critical role in controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Unfortunately, many American youth who receive abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula are not given critical and accurate information about HIV prevention.
"HIV/AIDS is still a critical health problem in America," said GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard. "We must commit ourselves as a nation to providing proper and comprehensive education to our youth about how they can reduce the chance of contracting HIV/AIDS."
Abstinence-only curricula is particularly dangerous for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) youth, who are prevented from same-sex marriage in all but two states. Federally funded programs are required to emphasize marriage as the only appropriate time for sexually intimate relationships.
In GLSEN's 2007 National School Climate Survey, 39.7% of LGBT youth reported that their school used an abstinence-only curriculum for providing sex education.
Many abstinence-only curricula provide misleading and medically inaccurate information about health matters such as the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. The most commonly used abstinence-only curricula ignore the needs of LGBT youth who may then not receive accurate information about HIV prevention and other sexual health matters.
Abstinence-only curricula may also foster greater intolerance and further create a negative school climate for LGBT students.
According to The 2007 National School Climate Survey:
Students in schools with an abstinence-only curriculum reported higher levels of harassment and assault based on sexual orientation and gender expression than those in schools without an abstinence-only curriculum
Students in schools with an abstinence-only curriculum were more likely to feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation (64.8% to 57.3%) and gender expression (41.4% to 35.8%) and were more likely to miss school because of safety concerns (34.7 to 30.1).
Students in schools with an abstinence-only curriculum had fewer educators supportive of LGBT students than students in schools without abstinence-only curriculum and felt less comfortable talking with school staff about LGBT issues. Less than a third (30.9%) of these students could identify many (six or more) supportive school staff compared to 43.9% of students in schools without such curricula. Students from abstinence-only schools also reported feeling less comfortable talking one-on-one with each type of school staff.