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World AIDS Day 2006: REAL Sexuality Education is HIV Prevention

December 1st is recognized internationally as World AIDS Day.  Each year organizations around the world reaffirm their commitment to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, both in the U.S. and worldwide, and the need for education and prevention initiatives.  In observance of this year’s theme, Stop AIDS-Keep the Promise, SIECUS continued to promote the importance of comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education as the mainstay of HIV prevention.

HIV/AIDS in the United States: Focusing on the Needs of African-American Women
Joining amfAR and AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth, & Families, SIECUS co-sponsored, HIV/AIDS in the U.S.: Focusing on the Needs of African American Women, a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill.  The briefing, supported by Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), featured a panel of expert speakers who addressed how effective HIV prevention, comprehensive sexuality education, and access to care and treatment can serve to “keep the promise” to African-American women and their families living with HIV/AIDS. 

Actress Gloria Reuben, who played HIV-positive nurse Jeannie Boulet on the NBC hit series ER and is now a dedicated HIV activist, spoke about the media’s role in highlighting HIV/AIDS issues in the United States.  Danielle Warren-Diaz, from the Ryan White Title IV program at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and University of Connecticut Health Center, spoke about the importance of not only reauthorizing the Ryan White CARE Act but also of increasing funding for Title IV, which is intended to provide health care and support services for children, adolescents, women and families utilizing comprehensive, community-based care systems.  Ms. Warren-Diaz as well as Candace Webb, program associate for training and education at AIDS Alliance, also shared powerful personal stories of how HIV/AIDS has affected their lives as African-American women and youth. 

The briefing also included a review of the science and epidemiology around the virus by Dr. Ada Adimora, M.D., M.P.H, Divisionof Infectious Diseases, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, andpolicy recommendations by Diana Bruce, director of policy and government affairs at AIDS Alliance, and William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS.   

For more information on African Americans and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, please see the new report released by the National Minority AIDS Council entitled African Americans, Health Disparities, and HIV/AIDS: Recommendations for confronting the Epidemic in Black America.

Breaking the Promise: The Politics of Domestic HIV Prevention
On World AIDS Day, SIECUS released a report titled Breaking the Promise: The Politics of Domestic HIV Prevention.  This new report examines recent reductions in funding for domestic HIV prevention and the government’s shift away from proven prevention strategies to ideologically driven programs that have never been shown to be successful.  Breaking the Promise explores the shift from risk reduction to risk elimination seen, for example, in the growth of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.  In addition, the report looks at new prevention strategies undertaken by the government such as the latest focus on testing and follows the money through the years of shifting priorities. 

In addition, the report details seven policy recommendations for moving forward.  It states, “If, as a nation, we want to achieve our government’s stated goal of reducing new infections by a half, then we must have a plan that helps guide us out of the current quagmire. This plan must begin with a return to the sound public health policies of risk reduction.”  The policy recommendations include fully funding HIV prevention, abolishing abstinence-only-until-marriage funding, acknowledging the important role that condoms play in HIV prevention, restoring the link between HIV testing and prevention, and bringing the HIV community together in a neutral setting.

The publication was sent to every member of Congress along with buttons featuring the red AIDS awareness ribbon and reading “REAL Sex Education is HIV Prevention.” 

The full report can be viewed here.

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