ACLU Criticizes the CDC for Proposed Changes in Guidelines on AIDS-Related Materials

August 17, 2004 12:00 am

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New Guidelines Place New Hurdles for HIV Prevention Groups Trying to Stop the Spread of HIV


NEW YORK – In a letter submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Civil Liberties Union denounced suggested revisions to the agency’s content guidelines for HIV/AIDS materials, which regulate the messages that HIV prevention organizations receiving federal funds can use in materials aimed at preventing HIV transmission. The new guidelines would require organizations to present HIV prevention materials for review by state and local health officials, who could be partisan, elected officials with no expertise in HIV issues and prevention.

“”The CDC has been operating under the same material guidelines for 12 years. Now, just months shy of the election, it is suggesting changes in the guidelines that could give elected officials the right to veto prevention materials and shut down HIV prevention organizations,”” said James Esseks, Litigation Director of the ACLU’s AIDS Project. “”These changes are nothing more than dirty politics that put lives at risk.””

Organizations receiving federal funds for HIV prevention are currently required to run materials past a Program Review Panel (PRP), a group of individuals knowledgeable about disease prevention. In addition to the PRP’s, HIV prevention materials under the new guidelines would also have to be approved by state and local health officials. This gives state and local health officials absolute veto power over all CDC-funded HIV prevention programs in their local jurisdiction. In some areas, state and local health officials are elected officials without any expertise in HIV prevention.

“”At a time when HIV prevention efforts are more important than ever, there’s a very real fear that partisan politics will begin dictating prevention messages,”” added Esseks. “”To be effective, these messages must connect with their intended audiences. Let’s face it, abstinence until marriage isn’t going to go over very well with gay teens who can’t marry.””

In its letter to the CDC, the ACLU also recommends that guidelines make it clear that the guidelines do not require the teaching of abstinence-only-until-marriage.

The ACLU’s letters to the CDC, are available online at: /node/22214 & /node/22215

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