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Abstinence Club Helps African American Youth Avoid Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections

African American young people.

Assessment of a Culturally-Tailored Sexual Health Education Program for African American Youth,” (abstract). Tiffany Zellner Lawrence, Tabia Henry Akintobi, Assia Miller, Elaine Archie-Booker, Tarita Johnson and Donoria Evans. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Vol. 14, No. 1 (2017).

What it’s about: Researchers Lawrence, Akintobi, Miller, Archie-Booker, Johnson and Evans evaluated the effectiveness of a sexual health program designed to help delay sexual activity among African American youth. They surveyed young people ages 12–18 in Atlanta, Georgia, before and after the intervention took place. The researchers recruited young people from seven schools, three community sites, and three detention sites, with the interventions being held at the respective sites. Of the youth studied, 651 were enrolled in the “To Help Young People Establish (2 HYPE) Abstinence Club,” and 112 young people were in a comparison group, all of whom identified themselves as African American.

The “2 HYPE Abstinence Club” program is an adaptation of the evidence-based Choosing the Best intervention, based on input from a youth advisory board. Among the suggestions the program designers implemented were to incorporate culturally-specific art forms, such as hip hop, West African dance, spoken word, and poetry.

Why read it: Lawrence et al. report that even though US teen pregnancy rates are at an all-time low, research shows that African American youth have a disproportionately high rate of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), and teenage pregnancy, compared to other racial/ethnic groups. While recent studies show that sex education of any type results in lower pregnancy and STI rates, few studies have focused on abstinence education programs alone. Among such studies, few measured long-term effectiveness, and none of the programs studied was tailored specifically for African American youth. Lawrence and her colleagues write that this study is the first to evaluate “2 HYPE Abstinence Club.”

Biggest takeaways from the research: Lawrence’s research team found that after participating in “2 HYPE,” there was a statistically significant increase in the number of youth who reported that they were:

  • Thinking about being abstinent.
  • Planning to save sexual activity for marriage.
  • Planning not to have sex any time before they got married.

After the 2 HYPE intervention, young people also said they believed that:

  • Sexual urges can be controlled.
  • There is a problem with unmarried teens having sexual intercourse even if no pregnancy results from it.
  • They were sure that they could keep from having sex.

The research team noted that after participation in the program:

  • Participants were more likely to plan to be abstinent.
  • Young men were twice as likely to plan abstinence compared to young women.
  • Young people who had yet to engage in sexual activity were twice as likely to plan abstinence compared to those who had been sexually active before.

Lawrence and her colleagues suggest that while they observed other overall improvements that weren’t statistically significant, those findings might still be worthwhile for service providers to consider in their work. For example, more young people decided after the intervention, compared to before it, that having sex as a teenager would make it harder to stay in school and study, and harder to have a good marriage and family life in the future. They note that because this study centered around a specific program in Atlanta, their results cannot be generalized for the entire African American youth population; further, young people in the study may have provided some answers that they thought would receive a favorable response rather than their own opinions.

Despite these limitations, the authors suggest that the results of this study may provide direction for new research on effective interventions designed to reduce HIV, STIs, and pregnancy among African American youth.

Additional references: Learn more about African American youth, teen pregnancy prevention, STIs, and HIV in our digital library.
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