Sexual education programs that promote sexual abstinence while also encouraging safe sex—known as “abstinence-plus” programs—are found to reduce HIV risk among young people in developed countries, Medical News Today reports (, 1/23).

According to a recent Cochrane Review —which examined 39 studies involving a total of more than 37,000 young people in North America—no adverse effects of abstinence-plus programs were reported. In 23 of those studies, participants reported a sizeable increase in protective sexual behavior.

“In a previous Cochrane Review, we concluded that abstinence-only programs have no effect in high-income countries, which makes the findings that abstinence-plus programs can influence behavior even more striking,” says lead researcher Dr. Don Oerario of the University of Oxford. “This is an opportunity for the HIV prevention and public health communities to harness the potential benefits of comprehensive sexual health education such as abstinence-plus programs.”