The American government's response to under-age sex and sexually-transmitted disease has been to encourage abstinence. Surprisingly, the initiative hasn't worked.
Over the past 10 years, 800 'abstinence programs' have been created at a cost of $1.5bn. President Bush's budget for 2009 has set aside $204m for the programs, which extol the virtues of sex within marriage. Sexual activity outside of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects, the program teaches.
But an independent study of the programs has discovered they "had absolutely no measurable impact on initiation rates, ages of first intercourse, or numbers of partners, no impact on pregnancies, births, or STDs (sexually-transmitted disease)", says Bruce Trigg of the New Mexico Department of Health.
"And in some cases, kids sat through three years of mandatory abstinence-only classes."
(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2008; 299: 2013-5).