Massachusetts HIV Education Programs for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Youth Need to Include Sex Ed
"Despite what we know, there remain communities known to be at high risk of HIV infection for which effective prevention strategies face fierce opposition," Rob Woronoff, director of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Services and Peer Programs at The Home for Little Wanderers, writes in a Boston Globe op-ed. The Massachusetts Legislature last year passed a bill providing funding for programs for such groups, but they included a line item that "dictates that no money could be used for sex education," he notes. "The links between sex and HIV risk are undeniable. Therefore, it is only common sense that these youths be engaged in honest and explicit discussions of the very behavior that potentially put them at risk for HIV infection," he continues. "Did the Legislature not realize that [the line item] would preclude HIV prevention education?" he asks. The restriction has put the Departments of Public Health and Education and those that provide services for GLBT youth "in an untenable situation in which choices had to be made between supporting HIV programs or more general types of youth supports," he states. "Decision-makers must look past our society's discomfort with sex and focus on the real and present dangers facing youth. We in Massachusetts are fortunate to have efforts in place to support the development of healthy and safe communities. But this cannot be accomplished with the threat of HIV disease left to hang over the heads of young people," he concludes (Woronoff, Boston Globe, 8/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.