Knowledge is Power

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Great news in yesterday’s New York Times. According to public health officials, “AIDS among infants, which only a decade ago took the lives of hundreds of babies a year and left doctors in despair, may be on the verge of being eliminated in the United States.” The statistics are hopeful: back in 1990, about 2,000 babies every year were born infected with HIV. Today, that number is just over 200. Why the turnaround? Scientists thank better drugs and more aggressive public education. Also topping the list: “a greater awareness of the necessity of safe sex practices.” Luckily, the message is strong enough to get past White House efforts to muzzle the teachings of safe sex. President Bush, kowtowing to ideological right-wing interests, has pushed for sex education to not include information on ways to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. Here are some right-wing claims debunked:

RIGHT-WING FALSEHOOD: Abstinence-only programs have tried to discredit the effectiveness of condoms in preventing HIV, saying “in heterosexual sex, condoms fail to prevent HIV approximately 31% of the time.” This conclusion is based on a seriously flawed 1993 study that the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) charge was based on “serious error” and contradicted by other more recent, larger studies.
TRUTH: According to the CDC, the scientific consensus is that latex condoms, used properly, “are highly effective in preventing the transmission of HIV.”

RIGHT-WING FALSEHOOD: Another abstinence-only program teaches students that HIV and other STDs can “pass through” condoms.
TRUTH: The CDC scientifically concluded that “latex condoms provide an essentially impermeable barrier to particles the size of STD pathogens.”

RIGHT-WING FALSEHOOD: President Bush Administration appointed a prominent advocate of abstinence-only programs, Dr. Joe McIlhaney, to the Advisory Committee to the CDC’s Director. In April 2002, Dr. McIlhaney announced “there is precious little evidence” that comprehensive sexual education programs are “successful at all.”
TRUTH: In fact, the opposite is true. A study by Advocates for Youth, a non-profit group, found there were “few short-term benefits and no lasting, positive impact” from abstinence-only programs. In fact, abstinence-only programs’ emphasis on the failure rates of contraception, including condoms, “left youth ambivalent, at best, about using them.”