New guidelines proposed this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would require groups that receive federal HIV prevention funds to obtain government approval of all educational materials before making them available to the public, including posting them on the Internet. The agencies receiving federal HIV prevention funds also would be forced to comply with a 2000 law to provide "medically accurate information" about the ability of condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. This could include required disclaimers on their Web sites that condoms do not prevent all STDs and posting information about condom failure rates. Programs or online information that tout condom use without mentioning their failure rates could be shut down or be forced off the Internet to avoid losing federal funding, agency officials worry.
CDC spokesperson Kathy Harben told The Washington Times the new guidelines reflect "technology advances, particularly the availability of information on the Internet." The CDC has opened a two-month public comment on the proposed guidelines before it decides whether to formally adopt them.
AIDS activists slammed the proposed guidelines, calling them another attempt by right-wing members of the Bush administration to muzzle AIDS service groups that talk about sexual practices and condom use. Kate Krauss of the AIDS Policy Project called the changes "really bad and shocking" and suggested they may violate freedom of speech protections in the First Amendment, the Times reports. But right-wing lawmakers praised the CDC proposal. "Sadly, too many lives have been adversely impacted by relying on inaccurate information regarding the effectiveness of condoms to protect against STDs," Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) told the Times. Indiana Republican Mark Souder, who has championed right-wing efforts to curtail funding for several AIDS service groups, including San Francisco's Stop AIDS Project, told the Times the CDC proposal will hopefully "put an end to federally funded flirting classes and other programs of dubious value and outrageous content that have failed to prevent HIV."