In an appearance on MTV yesterday, Secretary of State Colin Powell advocated condom use as a responsible way to prevent the spread of AIDS, diverging from President George W. Bush’s policies in favor of abstinence-only sex education. Powell said, “It is important that the whole international community come together, speak candidly about it, forget about taboos, forget about conservative ideas with respect to what you should tell young people about.” Powell’s statement comes after Bush made an announcement that he will seek a 33% increase in funding for abstinence-only programs in the FY 2003 budget, representing an increase of $33 million over the last year.
Abstinence only education programs prohibit discussion of birth control, condoms, and other family planning devices as effective means for preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unwanted pregnancy. According to a 1997 study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, “there does not currently exist any scientifically credible, published research” that show abstinence-only programs delay or reduce sexual activity. In the same year, a panel on HIV convened by the National Institutes of Health claimed “abstinence only programs cannot be justified in the face of effective programs and given the fact that we face an international emergency in the AIDS epidemic.”
Despite this evidence, Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer noted, “The president continues to believe that abstinence and abstinence education is the most effective way to prevent AIDS, to prevent unwanted pregnancy.”