Macon, Ga., Mayor Calls for Better HIV/AIDS Prevention, Sex Education in Public Schools Following Africa Trip
Macon, Ga., Mayor Jack Ellis on Wednesday said that his recent trip to Africa as part of a U.S. Conference of Mayors delegation has convinced him that public schools need better sex education and HIV/AIDS prevention programs that include condom distribution, the Macon Telegraph reports. Ellis, who returned this week from a trip to Africa, said that HIV/AIDS education efforts in Uganda have been more effective "by far" than similar efforts in the United States because Ugandans have learned to openly discuss the disease. "I learned as much as I shared," Ellis said, adding, "Because I think we can do more to publicize and to be more forthright about AIDS, especially given sex education and other things in our school system, because right now we have some prohibition as to even what we can discuss in our school system, be it condoms and other sexual matters" (Beverley, Macon Telegraph, 9/11). Ellis was joined on the Africa trip by Burnsville, Minn., Mayor Elizabeth Kautz and Knoxville, Tenn., Mayor Victor Ashe, who said that the best way to combat HIV/AIDS is through collaborative efforts between local leaders and communities. The three mayors visited AIDS-related project sites in the Ugandan capital city of Kampala and its neighboring city of Jinja to get a first-hand look at the impact of HIV/AIDS in local communities. In addition, the mayors got a closer look at how community leaders are handling the HIV/AIDS epidemic and determined areas where community leaders need more resources (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/11).
New Prevention Measures
Ellis said that abstinence should be taught in schools but that other measures, such as providing condoms, are needed to combat the spread of HIV, according to the Telegraph. Ellis plans to approach the local Bibb County School Board about its sex education programs, and he will likely talk with state officials as well, according to the Telegraph. The Georgia Board of Education requires local schools to provide sex education, although parents may choose to exempt their children. The state prohibits the distribution of condoms or other contraceptives on public school property. Raynette Evans, director of health, physical education and athletics for Bibb County public schools, said that there have been "few complaints" from parents about guidelines developed 10 years ago for sex education and HIV/AIDS prevention, adding, "Everyone has their own value system. A parent knows best what their child needs to know about (sex education)." Evans said that reduced funding and increased academic accountability standards restrict schools systems' ability to provide sex education (Macon Telegraph, 9/11).