White House Office of National AIDS Policy director Joseph O'Neill was booed and jeered Thursday as he spoke of the Bush administration's support of abstinence-only HIV prevention programs at the U.S. Conference on AIDS in Anaheim, Calif., the Orange County Register reports. Conference attendees also expressed dismay over O'Neill's comments regarding Bush's opposition to needle-exchange programs to prevent HIV transmission among injection-drug users. "I know there are concerns in this room about the Administration's policies--or what our policies are imagined to be," O'Neill told the crowd. "We have to try to bring more voices to the table. Abstinence is one of those voices. We have not made a dent in the annual number of new infections in years. And we cannot afford to close our ears to any ideas."
But Dan Gleason, executive director of Orange County's AIDS Services Foundation, said there is no evidence that abstinence programs are effective, adding that they fail to address safer-sex issues for young people who will eventually become sexually active. "It's not an enlightened perspective," he said. "It's a perspective that doesn't take good solid health education into account."