Studies published in a special issue of the online journal Sexuality Research and Social Policy by the University of California Press suggest that abstinence-only programs contain medical inaccuracies, fail to help young people to change behaviour, and conflict with ethical standards.
These programs also violate young people's right to accurate information-and also teachers' and health educators' rights to answer questions and provide medically accurate information.
In a study conducted by researcher Douglas Kirby, the team analysed the mpact of 56 programs on teenagers' sexual behaviour, comparing abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education programs.
It showed that most abstinence programs failed to succeed in delaying the initiation of sex and only 3 of 9 had any significant positive effects on sexual behaviour.
On the other hand, nearly two thirds of comprehensive programs showed strong evidence that they positively affected young people's sexual behaviour, including delaying initiation of sex and increasing condom and contraceptive use.
Another study by Alison Lin and John Santelli found that three commonly used, abstinence-only curricula often provide inaccurate medical information to adolescents, including false or misleading statements about the effectiveness and safety of condoms.
"Abstinence-only programs have a broad variety of problems with accuracy, efficacy, and ethics," said Santelli.
"These studies clearly demonstrate that federal promotion of abstinence has failed in its primary goal of helping young people delay initiation of sex, and actually, withholds life-saving information from young people," he added.
A research team led by Marissa Raymond also showed that many states rejected federal abstinence-only funds, citing concerns about the efficacy and accuracy of abstinence-only curricula.
Researchers Ali Miller and Rebecca Schleifer revealed that abstinence-only programs violate key human rights principles as in provided incomplete information about prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases and used discriminatory language about gay men and lesbians in abstinence-only programs.