The fact sheet “Condoms and Their Use in Preventing HIV Infections and Other STDs” vanished from the CDC’s website in July 2001. When it was still MIA last summer, Congressional Democrats, Planned Parenthood and The New York Times charged that the abstinence-obsessed administration was censoring lifesaving information. Health sec Tommy Thompson rushed to explain that material was merely being “updated.” Sure enough, last December, the site debuted “Male Latex Condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.” Major before- and-afters? The old site led with “Condoms are effective in preventing HIV and other STDs,” while the “updated” one gives “The surest way to avoid transmission…is to abstain from sexual intercourse” pride of place. The mantra that condoms are “highly effective” against HIV survived the revisions, but in a form that emphasizes risks rather than benefits. Plus, the old version gave plain-English tips on using and choosing latex; the new one substitutes arcane analysis of how (imperfectly) they work against, say, HPV. Post-launch, 14 Dems pressed Thomp-son to “stop this subversion of science and suppression of information.” Fighting words? Decide for yourself at www.cdc.gov/std.
Condoms don’t work. Pregnancy leads to abortion and death. Those are just two fun “facts” that recent Washington state high schoolers such as Lindsay Scola say they were told in sex-ed led by the group SHARE (www.share-program.com), which counsels abstinence until marriage. SHARE denies the charges. In February, during hearings on a state bill to mandate “medically accurate” high school sex-ed, Scola, now a college sophomore, shared with state lawmakers just what SHARE had shared. “I grew up in a very educated family,” said the 20-year-old. “I knew they were lying.”
Naples, Florida, December 2002: Ninth-grade sex-ed teacher Colin Nicholas gave his class a how-to-apply-a-condom-to-a-banana demo—and was promptly fired. Another case of killing lifesaving info? Not so fast. In a memo faxed by Collier County School District officials to POZ, students allege that Nicholas made them repeatedly do the exercise, picking “shy girls” to hold the banana between their legs. The document also states that Nicholas, who didn’t return calls from POZ, “professed familiarity with the abstinence curriculum and agreed there was no basis for the condom exercise.” The curriculum uses a textbook, Health, that contains all of four pages on contraceptives. Nowhere does it indicate that condoms prevent contracting HIV from a banana.