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Jewish World Review Jan. 20, 2000 /13 Shevat, 5760

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Why not 'just say no'?

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- NOW WE CAN ADD the American Medical Association (AMA) to the American Psychology Association (APA) as another professional organization that passionately advocates rather than objectively investigates.

A recent UPI story in my local paper reported that "delegates to the American Medical Association's policy-making body approved a report in which researchers said free distribution of condoms was more successful at combating the problem of teen-age sexual activity than school-based abstinence-only programs. Although expected to be controversial, the recommendation of the report passed without comment from the 500 members of the House of Delegates at its interim meeting."

"Without comment"? Gee, how did they beat into silence the members of the AMA's House of Delegates who knew this was hogwash?

Well, the doctors who make up the Consortium of State Physicians Resource Councils have plenty to say. Their spokesman, Dr. John Diggs, issued a statement about the AMA report that said: "... it shows the degree to which the AMA is being held hostage to political and philosophical ideology at the expense of sound science and the health interests of Americans."

The consortium found two main problems with the report. First, its conclusions seriously compromise primary prevention as the accepted medical model. Second, the AMA report admits that the data on which the recommendation is based are "sparse," both in terms of abstinence-only programs and so-called safe-sex programs.

With respect to primary prevention, the consortium statement says, "The primary prevention model promotes those behaviors that produce the best health outcomes while discouraging unhealthy behaviors. The research is overwhelming that teen sexual activity -- not just the non-use of condoms -- is risky behavior. The AMA has no problem telling adolescents not to engage in violence, smoke cigarettes or use drugs and alcohol. Promoting risk reduction rather than complete risk avoidance is an unacceptable medical compromise."

The AMA does not tell kids how to smoke cigarettes to lessen the risk of cancer, or how to ingest drugs and alcohol to avoid getting high or drunk; or how to handle a gun without getting shot. They don't do that, but they do that with sex. Why?

Why don't they come out and say that having sex is risky behavior, and there is no known mechanism for avoiding sexually transmitted diseases other than abstinence? The No. 1 sexually transmitted disease is HPV, venereal warts, and it is NOT prevented by condom use. It is also linked to 90 percent of all invasive cervical cancers in women.

Here is the leading medical association in America promoting the use of condoms and putting kids on the front line for contracting the No. 1 sexually transmitted disease with potentially lethal long-term consequences. What ever happened to "first, do no harm"?

The AMA report also acknowledges that "the findings on safer sex programs are inconsistent." So let's see. There is inconsistent or insufficient information on both types of programs, but the AMA decided to dump abstinence and promote condoms. As Dr. Diggs says: "The information is sparse on abstinence-only education because these programs have not been well-studied, not because they have proven to be ineffective. To declare abstinence education as ineffective based on the existing data can only be done from ideology, not from science."

The Medical Institute for Sexual Health in Austin, Texas, also issued a response to the report. Their critique pointed out that the research on abstinence-only programs was a meta-analysis -- that is, not a primary research effort. Further, it was an unpublished presentation to the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists.

A meta-analysis is a review of other people's research and their findings. This one was done by only one person named Wilcox and was not subject to peer review as it would have been had it been published. The scientific validity of the findings had not been verified, yet the AMA was critical of abstinence-only programs based on this single presentation.

I'm sure that sex educators will now use this report as a weapon to shoot down abstinence-only programs in your local schools. It will be used as justification for putting your kids in a high-risk situation for sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, confusion, emotional turmoil and heartbreak.

So get ready to fight. Read all of this material (it's on my Web site at www.drlaura.com) so you can raise the many legitimate questions about this so-called medical report by "the experts" when you attend your next parents' meeting at school.

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