Prodded by a congressional report that showed many federally funded abstinence-only sex education programs contained factual errors, including that half of all gay teenagers are HIV-positive, that HIV can be spread through sweat and tears, and that touching a woman's genitals can cause pregnancy, the gay law group Lambda Legal is launching an investigation into whether the programs violate state medical accuracy laws. Lambda deputy legal director Hayley Gorenberg said several states have laws requiring health education to be "medically accurate." She says programs that teach abstinence as the only reliable way to prevent HIV and sexually transmitted diseases may be violating those laws.
"If you put out materials that are misleading and incorrect, that say things, for instance, like, 'HIV can be spread through sweat and tears,' which has never, ever been documented, that's clearly not medically accurate, and it's dangerous," Gorenberg said. She said Lambda will review the state medical accuracy laws and the abstinence-only curriculums to determine if there has been a violation. If any are found, she said, Lambda will challenge the programs in whatever way it decides is most effective.
Senate majority leader Bill Frist on Sunday said the government should review federally funded abstinence-only problems in light of some of the findings in the report. Speaking on ABC News's This Week, Frist, who is a medical doctor, avoided discussing the medical accuracy of the programs in question or some of the claims made in them, but said "of course [they] should be reviewed."
The report was prepared by the staff of Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat. Waxman's staff reviewed 13 commonly used abstinence curricula and found that 11 of the programs, which have been presented to millions of children in 25 states, contained "unproved claims, subjective conclusions, or outright falsehoods regarding reproductive health, gender traits, and when life begins." Additional false claims mentioned in the report are that women who have abortions are more prone to suicide and that condoms fail to prevent HIV and other STDs 31% of the time. "Something is seriously wrong when federal tax dollars are being used to mislead kids about basic health facts," Waxman told The Washington Post.