When faced with an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS in the early 1990s, Thailand saw an opportunity. Getting humans to abstain from sex is almost impossible, so Thailand created one of the largest pro-contraceptive campaigns in history. Known as the “100 percent Condom Campaign,” Thailand increased condom use in brothels by 80 percent and new HIV cases decreased by 80 percent from 1991 to 2001 according to Kerry Patterson and Chase McMillan from Brigham Young University.
The Thailand Condom Campaign was proof that giving access to contraceptives and sex education instead of stigmatizing a natural human act is beneficial to the overall health of a nation.In the United States, we should continue to teach sex education, as well as provide free or cheap contraceptives at various public health organizations. These contraceptives should be given out in greater numbers than currently and be advertised more aggressively.
Premarital sex has been historically taught as wrong in the United States, and as such our sex ed system promotes abstinence-only behaviors. At the foundation of this nation, the Puritans who controlled much of the country condemned masturbation and other sexual acts. The next 200 years was a slow grind towards acceptance, but challenges from the religious Christian communities slowed progress to a trickle at every point.
Today sex ed is widely accepted by most people as necessary and beneficial, but some school districts restrict the content of these classes in very religious counties and cities. Even in major cities like St. Louis, an entirely religious, private organization known as Thrive St. Louis continues to teach students in public schools that abstinence is still the best method to avoid STIs and teen pregnancy. Students have also complained that the program makes sex seem dirty.
Studies and reports have made it clear: abstinence-only education does NOT work. Professor Rebecca Maynard from the University of Pennsylvania stated in her January 2015 report that, “We can conclude that the programs did not delay sexual onset.” But what are the effects on society if we teach only abstinence-only education and don’t promote contraceptives heavily?
In 2012, the CDC found that data from the 2010 census shows that an astounding 73 percent of black children were born into non-marital relationships. Being raised by two married parents is crucial for building family relations and teaching morals as well, helping to combat crime, drugs, and violence that even Al Sharpton admits are issues in black communities like South Chicago.
Contraceptives and sex ed are also essential in halting the rise of STIs in the US. The CDC announced that STIs were on the rise for the third year in a row in 2016. Over two million cases of STIs were reported two years ago. Condoms and awareness are the two biggest factors in reducing these rates as shown in Thailand in the 90s.
In order to protect the health of citizens and help combat poverty in poor communities, we need to offer and advertise condoms and other contraceptives more aggressively through organizations like Planned Parenthood while also moving away from abstinence-only sex education. Families that are Christian are free to advocate for abstinence, but science and facts should prevail over religious values in schools.