Florida Health Department Recalls HIV/AIDS Brochure With Religious Content
The Florida Department of Health on Friday pulled an HIV/AIDS educational booklet following complaints by civil liberties groups about the booklet's religious content, the Miami Herald reports (Weaver, Miami Herald, 4/5). The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida had demanded that the state remove from its inventory an HIV/AIDS booklet called "A Christian Response to AIDS," which includes quotes from the Bible and a picture of Jesus. Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida ACLU, said that the purpose of the brochure was to promote a particular religious viewpoint rather than to educate people about HIV/AIDS. The ACLU sent a letter to Dr. John Agwunobi, secretary of the state health department, and Beth Swisher of the Florida Bureau of AIDS expressing its concerns and requesting that the brochure be pulled. Simon said that about 13,500 copies of the 16-page brochure were bought by the health department in 2001 and 2002. Health department officials said that the brochure was on a list of state-approved HIV/AIDS education materials. Tom Liberti, director of the Florida Bureau of AIDS, said that the department purchased the pamphlets after they were requested by faith-based organizations -- particularly black groups -- that were involved in prevention programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/4). After the decision to pull the booklets was made, Simon said that he thought the state had little choice in the matter, according to the AP/Bradenton Herald. "The mistake in judgment was there for everybody to see," Simon said, adding, "I'm glad they responded so quickly." Liberti wrote to local health agencies and groups to inform them that "effective immediately no state or federal money is to be spent on the purchase and/or distribution of this brochure" (Royse, AP/Bradenton Herald, 4/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.