- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 18, 2001

A member of Congress has asked federal officials to investigate why $91,000 in abstinence-only education funding has been awarded to a Wisconsin group that says on its Web site that it doesn't do abstinence-only education.
"Because of the limited federal resources available to promote abstinence, it is extremely important that this money is wisely spent and provided to individuals and organizations that have proven to be effective abstinence advocates," Rep. Mark Souder, Indiana Republican, said in a Nov. 14 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.
On Oct. 26, Mr. Souder said, HHS announced the winners of four abstinence-only grants. One grant for $91,690 went to the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW) in Milwaukee.
According to the HHS, the funds are to "develop and implement abstinence-only education programs for young people age 12 to 18," wrote Mr. Souder, chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee on criminal justice, drug policy and human resources.
Yet according to the ARCW Web site, under "Youth Prevention Services," it states, "We DO NOT present abstinence-only programs," Mr. Souder said, adding that the "DO NOT" was capitalized on the group's Web site.
The ARCW Web site also said that its HIV approach was "an alternative to traditional abstinence-based programs," its teen-outreach workers "distribute condoms," and it offers "safer sex information," "safer sex kits" and "safer sex materials."
"Abstinence-only programs are exactly that, abstinence ONLY," Mr. Souder said in his letter to Mr. Thompson. The congressman asked for details on how the ARCW applied for the grant, how the group was selected and details about applicants that did not win a grant.
Mike Gifford, deputy executive director of ARCW, said Friday that his group "applied for this kind of grant because we saw a need for abstinence education as it relates to HIV and AIDS."
"We've been doing HIV prevention work in Wisconsin for 17 years now and that work has included risk-reduction counseling and some abstinence-based educational programs," he said. "Unfortunately, Representative Souder looked at one small part of our programming. We do provide some abstinence-based opportunities through our educational program."
The ARCW expects to use the one-year planning grant to develop abstinence HIV-prevention services for youth through churches, sports activities and in rural areas, Mr. Gifford said.
"We may be a little bit of an unusual or nontraditional provider of abstinence-based education," he said. "But it's not an either/or situation either abstinence-based or risk-reduction counseling. If we're really going to effectively reduce the spread of HIV in this community, we need to have both."
Representatives of the HHS Human Resources and Services Administration, which awarded the Oct. 26 grants from the Community-Based Abstinence Education Grant Program, could not be reached on Friday.
Abstinence advocates were dismayed by the grant to the ARCW.
"I'm shocked. They don't teach abstinence," said Cleo Phippen, a leader of the Wisconsin Abstinence Coalition in Kohler, Wis. "I've never seen [the ARWC] at one of our gatherings. They're not part of our abstinence coalition in this state. Nothing."
"We're not very happy at all … $91,000 is a lot of money," said Leslee Unruh, president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse in Sioux Falls, S.D., which has been helping abstinence-education groups apply for the abstinence grants. Mrs. Unruh said she has also sent a letter to Mr. Thompson questioning the ARCW grant.

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