Effective Sex Education


 SWAP logo

              Effective Sex Education





Sex Education

Effective Sex Education

In October, 2010, CDC released State Disparities in Teenage Birth Rates in the United States and reported that states in the South and Southwest had the highest rates of teen birth rates compared to the lowest rates being reported in the Northeast, California, and upper Midwest.  It is interesting to note that the states with the highest teen birth rates all have education policies that require abstinence-only based sex education while the states with the lowest teenage birth rates do not require abstinence-only sex education.


Characteristics of Effective Sexuality and HIV Education Program

The curricula of the most effective programs share characteristics. These programs:

  • Focus on reducing one or more sexual behaviors that lead to unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
  • Deliver and consistently reinforce a clear message about abstaining from sexual activity and/or using condoms or other forms of contraception. This appears to be one of the more important characteristics distinguishing effective from ineffective programs.
  • Provide basic, accurate information about the risks of teen sexual activity and about ways to avoid intercourse or to use methods of protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
  • Include activities that address social pressures that influence sexual behavior.
  • Provide examples of and practice with communication, negotiation, and refusal skills.
  • Incorporate behavioral goals, teaching methods, and materials that are appropriate to the age, sexual experience, and culture of the students.
  • Employ teaching methods designed to involve participants and have participants personalize the information.
  • Are based on theoretical approaches that have been demonstrated to influence other health-related behaviors and identify specific important sexual antecedents to be targeted.
  • Select teachers or peer leaders who believe in the program and then provide them with adequate training.
  • Last a sufficient length of time (i.e., more than a few hours).

Generally speaking, short-term curricula"whether abstinence-only or sexuality education programs"do not have measurable impact on the behavior of teens.

Source: Kirby D.

California was the first of many states to refuse federal monies for the Title V, Abstinence Only Until Marriage Funds.  Ten years later, the federal government is providing funding for evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention funding and comprehensive sex education.  Many California agencies have applied for and are following the distribution of these resources carefully.  For an excellent source on up to date information on funding link to: Funding Overview for 2010-2011 Federal and State Grants Prioritizing California Teen Sexual and Reproductive Health.  This document provides information on pending federal and state grants.  Providers are encouraged to take advantage of these exceptional opportunities to develop effective partnerships that will reduce risk behaviors that lead to unintended pregnancy and STD/HIV infection. 

Unfortunately, among the wide variety of funding changes is a proposal to eliminate funding for DASH, the CDCs Division of Adolescent and School Health.  This department has been instrumental in providing support and developing collaborations between schools and health departments.  In addition to addressing HIV/STDs, DASH covers a comprehensive array of health topics including nutrition, tobacco and asthma.  Loss of DASH funds will have significant impact on the programs at the local level. 

The DASH Mission:

DASH promotes the health and well-being of children and adolescents to enable them to become healthy and productive adults.


SWAP provides information on the California Sex Education Code and Minors Rights.  Link to the SWAP Search Page and enter these titles:

  • California Sex Education Code
  • Minors Rights
  • Minor Consent Chart

Additional Resources

Resources related to the California Sex Education Code include:

  • STD/HIV Update for Educators - This one-day training is intended for educators who work with school-age youth. The STD/HIV Update training provides a more in depth look at STDs and HIV, including: trends, transmission, consequences, STD/HIV connection, the CA Education Code regarding HIV and sexuality education, and appropriate risk-reduction messages for middle and high school aged youth.  Please visit the California STD/HIV Prevention Training Center to see when this course is scheduled or to schedule training in your region, please contact Behnoush Aghili at behnoush.aghili@cdph.ca.gov
  •  For information from the California Department of Education on comprehensive sexual health education and HIV/AIDS/STD prevention; includes legal requirements for education in these areas and additional resources for quality instructional programs:   http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/he/se/

National resources on Sex Education policy and program effectiveness are listed below:


To receive the SWAP monthly feature, please email Behnoush Aghili at: behnoush.aghili@cdph.ca.gov with the following information:

Name______________________ E-mail address_________________________ Agency_____________________

Thank you,


California Prevention Training Center
© 2024 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Contact Us Log In