In the lead up to Valentine's Day, students around the world are making a stand against the cultural message that encourages sexual promiscuity and promoting their choice of purity.
Young people are observing the seventh annual Day of Purity on Friday by rebelling against popular culture and educating the public about the dangers of promiscuous behavior.
"The heartache surrounding the tragedy of sexual promiscuity demands that we offer clear moral guidance and encouragement for our youth to stay sexually pure until marriage," Amber Haskew, coordinator for the Day of Purity, said in a statement. "The consequences of sexually transmitted diseases in our nation's youth are devastating, and abstinence is the only effective action."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2007 nearly half of high school students (48 percent) had ever had sexual intercourse, and 15 percent had had four or more sex partners during their life.
Every year, 19 million new STD infections occur and nearly half of these new cases happen to young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Among teenage girls, one in four has a sexually transmitted disease, the CDC reported in 2008.
This year's Day of Purity also comes after the release of a new report by the Guttmacher Institute which revealed that teen pregnancy and abortion rates rose in 2006, ending a 15-year decline.
Amid such dismal statistics, students are making public commitments to remain sexually pure.
Liberty University, the world's largest Christian university, plans to celebrate the Day of Purity with a campus-wide gathering where they will raise awareness about the dangers of sexual promiscuity.
"It is time to take a stand against behaviors that cause disease and death," said Haskew. "Youth who have already engaged in sexual activity can make a fresh start on the Day of Purity. Young people are ready to send a positive message to their friends, parents, churches, communities, legislators, and the media. It's time for a positive change in our culture."
Applauding the effort, World Congress of Families Managing Director Larry Jacobs said the message communicated through the Day of Purity is "truly countercultural."
"The culture tells teens it doesn't matter what they do, as long as they use a condom," he noted. "The dubious wisdom of this approach may be seen in skyrocketing rates of venereal disease, teen abortions and out-of-wedlock births; not to mention the high rates of teen depression and mental illness."
"With the culture – including the news and entertainment media, public education, and government – constantly pushing teen sexual experimentation, it's refreshing to have a day specifically dedicated to promoting premarital abstinence," he added.
The Guttmacher Institute has insisted that the rise in the teen pregnancy rate is partly a result of the promotion of abstinence programs, but a new study released last week found that abstinence education was more effective than other programs in reducing sexual activity among youths.
One-third of students who completed an abstinence program had sexual intercourse within two years of the class. By comparison, more than half of those who participated in safe sex and condom use programs said they had sexual intercourse. The study appears in the February 2010 Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.
Over 300 secondary schools, colleges and universities in 44 states are participating in the Day of Purity, a project of Liberty Counsel. Hundreds of churches, ministries and civic organizations, including American Family Association, are also joining the effort.