- The Washington Times - Friday, October 2, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Windsor Mann’s Op-Ed column “Private parts made a public concern” (Opinion, Sept. 23) gave a biased depiction both of the District’s program for testing high school students for sexually transmitted diseases and of DC Appleseed’s assessment of the District’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Mr. Mann’s complaint that the D.C. government forces students to submit to STD testing without the involvement of parents is off target. In no case is any student required to urinate “on command,” as Mr. Mann writes. In fact, students who enter the bathroom stalls as part of the program may choose not to provide a sample. Many make that choice. At the conclusion of the screening, no one knows who did or did not choose to be tested. Also, parents can instruct the schools to excuse their children from the program, and D.C. Public Schools takes aggressive steps to inform all parents about this option.

The STD testing program is a critical component of the District’s effort to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Mr. Mann highlights the disturbing 3 percent HIV/AIDS rate in the District, but he overlooks another important fact: Fifteen percent of the students in the program tested positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea - diseases that, left untreated, make youths more susceptible to contracting HIV.

Finally, Mr. Mann highlights my recent comments that the government is doing quite a lot to address the epidemic. What he did not say is that DC Appleseed has consistently stated that given the severity of the District’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, much more needs to be done - including expanding sexual health education for our children.

In the city with the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the country, the government’s STD testing effort is precisely the kind of program we need to protect our children. Parents obviously have an important role to play in this protection. But so do the schools.

WALTER SMITH

Executive director

DC Appleseed

Washington

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