Indiana Rep. Mark Souder Asks HHS to Investigate Wisconsin AIDS Organization that Received Federal Grant for Abstinence-Only Education
Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) has sent a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson asking that federal officials investigate why a federal grant for abstinence-only education was awarded to a Wisconsin AIDS organization that does not promote abstinence as the only way to avoid contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, the Washington Times reports. On Oct. 26, HHS announced that the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin was one of four groups that had been awarded a $91,690 grant to use for abstinence-only education. HHS has said that abstinence-only education grants are meant to aid in the development and implementation of "abstinence-only education programs for young people" ages 12 to 18 (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 11/18). However, the ARCW Web site states that its "Youth Prevention Services" include a "Teen Speakers Bureau" that presents educational sessions on basic HIV/AIDS information and sexuality issues. ARCW's description of the speakers' bureau states, "We DO NOT present abstinence-only programs" (ARCW Web site, 11/18). The ARCW also says that its HIV prevention programs include condom distribution and information on "safer sex." In his letter, Souder wrote, "Abstinence-only programs are exactly that, abstinence ONLY. ... Because of the limited federal resources available to promote abstinence, it is extremely important that this money is wisely spent and provided to individuals and organizations that have proven to be effective abstinence advocates." Mike Gifford, deputy executive director of the ARCW, said that his group does provide some abstinence-based programs and plans to use the grant to develop abstinence-based HIV prevention services for young people through churches and sports activities and in rural areas. "[I]t's not an either/or situation -- either abstinence-based or risk-reduction counseling. If we're really going to effectively reduce the spread of HIV in this community, we need to have both," Gifford said. Souder has asked HHS for information about how ARCW applied for the grant and how the group was chosen, as well as information about the applicants that did not win a grant (Washington Times, 11/18).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.