AIM project makes positive impact

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Features Editor

Feb. 20, 2001 10 PM

Halfway through the five-year grant period for the Abstinence in Motion (AIM) project, evaluation results show the project has had a positive impact.

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With support from Title V of the Social Security Act, the Alabama Abstinence-Only Education Program of the Alabama Department of Public Health has provided funding to Edge Regional Medical Center/ Charles Henderson Child Health Center for abstinence-only education.

Starting in Pike County, the AIM project, which targets seventh and ninth graders, has been extended to Barbour, Bullock, Crenshaw and Coffee counties.

The overall goal of the program is to reduce the occurrence of sexual activity among adolescents.

From fiscal year 1998 through fiscal year 2002, Gerald Halpin, Ph. D. and Glennell Halpin, Ph.D. Educational Foundations, Leadership and Technology, Auburn University, are conducting a comprehensive, intensive longitudinal evaluation of these projects.

"The evaluators are tracking the rates of pregnancies to unmarried teens and the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases among youths 18 years of age and younger," said Terry Watkins, AIM project director for Pike and surrounding counties. "And, they are assessing knowledge, attitudes and behavioral intentions regarding abstinence-only until marriage."

Although definitive data are not yet available regarding teen sexual activity, self-reports by participants in the abstinence-only education program show an increase following program participation in the percentage intending to remain abstinent until marriage, according to information released by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Program participants also report a greater understanding of the benefits of abstinence-only until marriage and the risks associated with teen sexual activity, the report stated. Teens’ self-efficacy or belief that they can remain abstinent is improving with program participation, as are their decision-making skills.

Watkins said the need for an abstinence program is evident.

"Today, we have a clearer picture of the true costs of the sexual revolution," she said. "Our society suffers from a plague of problems stemming from the breakdown of sexual morality. These problems include promiscuity, rape and other forms of sexual exploitation."

Unwed pregnancies and out-of-wedlock births increased 400 percent from 1960 through 1990.

"Not to mention more than a million abortions each year and an explosion of STDs," Watkins said. "Controlling sexual desires has always been a major challenge for young people as they come of age sexually. But, the challenge is more difficult than ever in today’s culture, which encourages self-indulgence, rather than self-control."

Popular songs, television, movies, advertising, peer pressure and negative adult role models frequently beckon the young toward premature sexual involvement and a lifestyle absorbed by the pursuit of sexual gratification, Watkins said.

However, comments from students indicate the AIM project is making a difference.

"The comments I hear from students participating in the AIM project are encouraging," Watkins said. "They say no one has ever shared the facts like the teachers in the AIM program and that they now know they don’t have to be pressured into sexual encounters. They say the AIM project has given them hope that they can abstain until marriage."

Watkins said there has been tremendous support from school officials and teachers who want the AIM program to be successful.

"It is not likely that schools in this area would have the funds to implement a program like this without the help of Title V funding," Watkins said. "Equipping students with the resources to resist sexual pressures allows students to reach their goals and dreams."