Science ‘Cannot Be Bent’ To Support Abstinence-Only HIV/AIDS Education, Prevention Initiatives, Opinion Piece Says
The U.S. government is carrying out "public health malpractice" in its domestic and global HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives because the Bush administration is using "perverted" science to support its requirements for abstinence-only sex education, Thomas Coates, professor of infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California-Los Angeles and a UCLA AIDS Institute executive committee member, writes in a Baltimore Sun opinion piece. The Bush administration currently requires that nearly one-third, or $270 million, of domestic HIV/AIDS prevention funding focus on abstinence, while recent draft regulations require that any government-funded content that is "vaguely 'sexually suggestive'" be "censor[ed]," Coates writes. In addition, all government-funded sex education materials must include information on the "lack of effectiveness" of condoms, Coates writes. Moreover, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief requires that one-third of prevention funds go toward abstinence-only and monogamy education initiatives, Coates writes. Although abstinence "should be an option that is provided to everyone so that individuals are not forced to engage in sexual relations when they don't want to," it should "be one option among others" because people "exposed to abstinence-only education are not being given the full range of tools that they need to care for themselves," Coates writes. Science "cannot be bent to support theology-based decisions" concerning HIV/AIDS education and prevention initiatives because if theology is "used to make public health decisions, then the theological thing to do is to act with integrity," Coates writes. The "moral high ground, and any values-based decision, requires that we use the best science we have to protect our young people," Coates concludes (Coates, Baltimore Sun, 9/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.