What can be done about the epidemics of STIs and nonmarital pregnancy facing our country?

People who postpone sexual activity until marriage to an uninfected partner are completely protected from STIs and nonmarital pregnancy. If this behavior choice (ie, abstinence) were to become normative again, it is likely that these epidemics would be reversed.

There is evidence that many teens are getting this message. According to Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance data, over half of teens in high school have not had sexual intercourse.1 From 1991 through 2011 the number of teens who have not had sexual intercourse increased from 46% to 52.6%.2 Additionally, the number of teens with four or more lifetime partners decreased significantly from 1991 to 2011.2 Most adolescents will postpone sexual activity (become or remain abstinent) with proper instruction and encouragement, especially from parents.

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2011. Surveillance Summaries, June 8, 2012. MMWR 2008;61(No. SS-4). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6104.pdf. Accessed: June 29, 2012.

2. 2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trends in the Prevalence of Sexual Behaviors and HIV testing: National YRBS 1991-2011. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/yrbs/pdf/us_sexual_trend_yrbs.pdf. Accessed: June 29,2012.


Reviewed: June 29, 2012.