HIV and ID doctors oppose ideologically driven STI prevention policies

HIV and infectious disease experts are urging the federal government to stop funding unproven strategies, like abstinence-only sexual health education, to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STI).

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) say these programs must be replaced with STI prevention policies that are based on sound science, not ideology.

Federal funding for programs teaching abstinence until marriage as the only way to avoid STIs has been increasing since the late 1990s, to nearly $170 million this year. An increase of $39 million is included in President George W. Bush's 2006 budget proposal. Furthermore, US law requires the $15 billion program providing AIDS relief to developing countries to allocate one-third of its prevention funds to abstinence-only education.

However, there is very little credible, peer-reviewed, published scientific evidence that abstinence-only sexual health education programs can prevent STIs. The preponderance of evidence backs comprehensive sex education programs that address the correct and consistent use of condoms.

"There's no doubt that the best way to prevent sexually transmitted infections is to abstain from sexual activity, or to be in a monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. But we have to face reality," says Walter E. Stamm, MD, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). "Most teenagers have sex before they graduate from high school. Millions of young people, as well as adults, are sexually active outside of monogamous relationships. We need to supply them with the tools to make wise choices."

"When spending taxpayer dollars, the federal government has an obligation to provide accurate information to sexually active people," adds Paul Volberding, MD, chair of the HIV Medicine Association Board of Directors. "The evidence shows using condoms reduces the risk of STIs. The evidence ju

Contact: Steve Baragona
Infectious Diseases Society of America

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