The Louisiana house of representatives recently approved an amendment to the state health department's budget that would prohibit the use of federal funds to buy and distribute condoms through HIV prevention programs, The [Baton Rouge] Advocate reports. The amendment, which passed without debate, is sponsored by Baton Rouge Republican Gary Beard, who says he introduced the bill to ensure that condoms are not distributed in the state's schools. He said he would rather federal money spent on condoms be redirected to prescription drug programs for the elderly.
AIDS activists and health department officials reacted with alarm to the passage of the bill, saying if it is approved by the senate and signed into law by the governor, it could result in a loss of federal Ryan White AIDS funds to the state which are used for both HIV prevention and care for HIV-positive people. The state health department had planned to use about $700,000 in federal AIDS money for the purchase and distribution of condoms. Enactment of the bill also could severely undermine HIV prevention outreach throughout the state, says Baton Rouge AIDS Society director Eugene Collins.