Perhaps we aren't as scared of HIV as we used to be. Yet, we are not yet to the point in fighting HIV and AIDS where we can return to our old prudish habit of avoiding frank discussions about sex. According to NPR, many colleges and universities are dropping any mention of responsible sexual behavior like condom use and regular STD testing from their orientation sessions. This anti-information trend is particularly disturbing when you consider that infection rates are no longer dropping and that "[i]n the United States, more than 1 million people are living with the disease, and each year, more than 40,000 people in this country find out they are HIV positive." Even more startling is the fact that "[o]ne in 20 people in D.C. are infected with HIV." Clearly, not telling teens how to best protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is not an good option.
Perhaps the abstinence-only education campaign, with its sleek billboards and TV ads featuring fashionable young virgins, has become stylish enough to sway some university officials. Yet, since abstinence-only programs do not seem to be effective and contain a startling number of errors and mis-information, the abstinence only fad is a dangerous one. Universities would be wise to remember their duty to both young people and truth and bring back open discussions about safe sexual behavior.
UPDATE: So, the Bush administration has decided to launch an abstinence-only ad campaign. Here is the first ad:
Quite frankly, I don't hate the ad. Parents should talk to their kids about sex and pregnancy and STDs and waiting to have sex is probably the healthier decision for teens. Yet, I DO hate the push to scare teens into abstinence with misinformation. The agenda to deny young people access to information that will keep them safer when they do decide to become sexually active is immoral.
UPDATE: RH Reality Check is holding a Sex-Ed Digital Video competition! Hopefully this will help promote the use of truthful and informative sex education materials and perhaps even create some useful teaching videos.