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Yet some of Sulak's most ardent defenders also come from within the medical profession. "I'm a convert to her way of thinking," says Dr. Gerald Joseph Jr., an obstetrician-gynecologist in Springfield, Mo., and district officer at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "There's no question her program is 100% medically accurate and responsible." Indeed, doctors have a hand in all aspects of the Worth the Wait curriculum. Not only do they train health educators from participating schools, but either a doctor or medical student also gives a guest lecture to students during the semester. If at any point during the program those students say they won't be abstaining until wedlock, they are promptly referred to a medical professional to talk about contraceptives.
Perhaps the most pressing question about Worth the Wait is the one that has dogged the abstinence movement from the start: Does it work? Though a major federal evaluation of 11 programs is due out early next year, no study has yet confirmed the merits of the just-say-no approach. But there are small signs that Worth the Wait is making a difference. A continuing evaluation that involves Texas A&M University professors found that from 1999 to 2001, frequency of sexual activity among seventh-and eighth-graders in the program dropped 4% and 2% respectively.
Back in Caldwell, Seth Claude and his girlfriend Chaille say they are taking things slowly. "We sit next to each other on the bus and at lunch," he says. And when they get together, they often wind up talking about genital warts. --With reporting by Perry Bacon Jr./Washington and Adam Pitluk/Caldwell
For more on sex education in schools, tune in to MTV on Oct. 3 at 10 p.m. E.T. for "Protect Yourself: Sex in the Classroom," part of the network's FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS: PROTECT YOURSELF campaign, a yearlong initiative dedicated to in-forming the audience on issues of sexual health.