Thank you for Tuesday’s editorial “They don’t see dead people.” Efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS in Washington have been mostly politically driven and not based on sound medical practices. Our organization has been working with D.C. youth since 2003 to encourage them to stay sexually abstinent or to return to sexual abstinence. Any serious prevention effort must include efforts to encourage sexual abstinence among youth, especially when 42 percent of high school teens have never had sex.
Yet Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee have blocked our work in D.C. public schools. Mrs. Rhee’s special assistant, Richard Nyankori, told us in a meeting that we would not be welcome in D.C. public schools anymore because we opposed parts of the new health standards that emphasize the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in sixth and eighth grades. We think these matters should be handled by parents, not forced on children by the school system. So even though waiting to have sex until you want to form a family within a marriage is a great prevention method, it is not welcome if you believe in a traditional definition of a family. This is a new kind of discrimination by government officials and some media, which might be called “abstinence stigma” or a fundamentalist attitude that if you don’t follow our new “values,” you are out.
Sexual abstinence is an excellent AIDS-prevention method, but some of those in power in Washington - who subscribe to the “religion” that any kind of sexual relationship is OK - work diligently to block those who promote sexual abstinence and also believe in traditional family values.
Co-founder, executive director
Urban Life Training and Reality Assessment (ULTRA) Teen Choice