200 Public Health Advocates Rally Against Bush’s Abstinence-Only Sex Education Policy at Close of STD Conference
About 200 public health advocates on Wednesday at the close of the 2004 National STD Prevention Conference in Philadelphia rallied against the Bush administration's plans to expand abstinence-only sex education, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports (Straziuso, AP/Long Island Newsday, 3/10). During his State of the Union speech in January, Bush called for $270 million for abstinence education programs to fight sexually transmitted diseases, saying that abstinence "is the only certain way" to avoid STDs (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 2/19). Public health advocates have "long complained" that abstinence-only sex education "hurts" sexually active teenagers, according to the Associated Press (Straziuso, Associated Press, 3/10). Two years ago, independent researchers who studied the programs for the federal government reported that there is "no reliable evidence" that abstinence-only education programs are effective, according to the AP/Newsday (AP/Long Island Newsday, 3/10). Teenagers who make "virginity pledges" to abstain from sexual intercourse until marriage have STD rates similar to those of teens who have not committed to remain abstinent, according to a study presented at the conference on Tuesday (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 3/10). "The Bush administration needs to fund comprehensive sex education programs," Lauren Oshman, president of the American Medical Student Association, which co-sponsored the rally, said (AP/Long Island Newsday, 3/10).
HPV Condom Warning
Comprehensive sex education advocates are "stepping up" criticism of the Bush administration's abstinence-only policy in preparation for a congressional hearing scheduled for Thursday that will examine whether condoms should carry warning labels saying that they do not protect against the STD human papillomavirus, according to the Associated Press. More than 50% of sexually active people in the United States at some time contract HPV, which can cause genital warts and is associated with almost all cases of cervical cancer. The virus can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, even when condoms are used. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), who called the hearing, has said that FDA should require that condoms carry warnings because of a 2000 law that requires condoms to have "medically accurate" labeling, according to the Associated Press. However, some public health officials said that warning labels might lead to confusion between HIV and HPV and decreased condom use, which could increase the risk of STD and HIV transmission. "People like Rep. Souder are taking this small piece of the puzzle and running with it, saying condoms don't work ... instead of saying condoms are really good at preventing HIV and other diseases," Julie Davids, executive director of CHAMP, a New York-based HIV/AIDS organization that co-sponsored the rally, said (Associated Press, 3/10). A CDC report released to Congress in January recommended abstinence and monogamous sexual relationships with uninfected partners as "primary prevention strategies" for HPV (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 2/3). Souder spokesperson Martin Green said that people need the information on the warning labels to protect themselves against HPV, according to the Associated Press. "Any time certain liberal elements disagree with scientific facts they label them as politicized, but we point to the CDC's report," Green said (Associated Press, 3/10).