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September 14, 1994

US Sticks Head in the Sand on AIDS Prevention

JAMA. 1994;272(10):756-757. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520100020006

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THE UNITED STATES likes to think of itself as the world leader in health care sophistication. Yet it is among the most backward nations when it comes to AIDS prevention.

This embarrassment was underscored during the 10th International Conference on AIDS in Yokohama, Japan. While success with explicit, school-based education programs elsewhere was being documented, the US Senate passed amendments that, if approved by the House and enacted into law, will cut off federal funds to schools that take a clear approach to sexual behavior.

The kinds of educational materials that enable adolescents to protect themselves from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection as they explore their emerging sexuality, such as how to use a condom or the realities of homosexuality, were decried as "disgusting" and "obscene" on the Senate floor by Sen Jesse Helms (R, NC) in debate on amendments that were added to the Elementary and Secondary School Act.

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