The Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group, on Tuesday called on Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to fulfill a promise he made at the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona and announce a comprehensive and scientifically based HIV prevention policy. "We profoundly disagree with this administration in that we believe arming people with information saves lives, while they believe that ignorance is the answer," said HRC political director Winnie Stachelberg. "The administration is promoting a policy that ignores gay people across the board and is a threat to all Americans who need to know how to avoid contracting HIV. We urge Bush to change course so that more young people do not become needlessly infected."
HRC points out that the Bush administration's push for increased funding for abstinence-only education programs that stress avoiding sex until marriage completely ignore the health needs of gay and lesbian youths who cannot legally marry, and that keeping safer-sex information from these youth puts their health and possibly their lives at risk. "Your department must be aware of the science and surveillance behind HIV/AIDS," a letter sent Monday from HRC to Thompson read. "While men who have sex with men have made strides in the past to reduce the incidence among their cohort, they still account for nearly half of all new AIDS cases in this nation." The letter urges Thompson to include same-sex HIV prevention education in all federally funded sex education and HIV prevention programs.