Texas House Slashes $3 Million in HIV Prevention Funds

In News by AHF

The Texas House passed a budget amendment earlier this week to divert nearly $3 million in federal HIV/STD prevention funding to abstinence-only sex education programs, effectively gutting HIV and STD prevention programs in the state, which currently has the third highest HIV rate in the nation.

The amendment will next go to the Texas Senate in two weeks, when opponents will challenge the measure.

DALLAS (April 3, 2015)—According to the Texas Observer, “The Texas House passed an amendment earlier this week that will divert $3 million in federal funding for HIV/STD prevention programs in Texas to instead fund abstinence-only sex education programs in the state.” The amendment passed 97-47 on a largely party-line vote. AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization which has HIV/AIDS treatment clinics as well as retail and pharmacy operations in Texas—including a Wellness Center in Dallas that offers free HIV and STD testing—opposes the move and will work to persuade legislators to kill the amendment before it comes before the Texas Senate in two weeks.

Texas currently has the third highest rate of HIV in the nation, reporting 5,044 new infections in Texans—or over 10 percent of the nation’s total new cases reported in 2011—according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Fact Sheet “HIV/AIDS in the United States” (released April 7, 2014); however, the Texas Department of State Health Services reports 4,317 cases that year.

The Observer article also noted that despite the fact that Texas was near the top in HIV rates nationally, it “… didn’t stop lawmakers from passing an amendment that defunds HIV/STD prevention programs Tuesday. The amendment to the House budget proposal—offered by Rep. Stuart Spitzer (R-Kaufman)—diverts $3 million over the next biennium to abstinence-only sexual education programs.”

Reporter Kelsey Jukam also noted in his Observer article that, “Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) asked Spitzer just how much money is needed for abstinence education in Texas, which receives more federal funding than any other state. Spitzer responded that additional funds are needed as long as people are still having sex before marriage.  His goal, he said, was for everyone to know that ‘abstinence is the best way to prevent HIV. My goal is for everyone to be HIV/AIDS free,’ Turner said.”

“If Representative Turner’s goal truly is for everyone ‘…to be HIV/AIDS free,’ he is going about it in the most wrong-headed direction by diverting funds away from HIV and STD prevention and testing programs and towards abstinence-only programs,” said Bret Camp, Texas Regional Director for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “We are certainly not against abstinence, but abstinence should be one option in a continuum of approaches to reach people—particularly younger individuals—where they are with effective prevention education and tools. Texas already has one of the highest HIV rates in the US and one of the higher teen pregnancy rates as well, so gutting prevention funding will only exacerbate both of these unfortunate benchmarks that Texas must sadly own.”

A recent CDC report on sexual activity among high school students noted that 54.1% of high school students nationwide were sexually active in 2013. The report also specifically noted about students in Texas:

Adolescent and School Health

Many young people engage in sexual risk behaviors that can result in unintended health outcomes. Sexual risk behaviors place adolescents at risk for HIV infection, other sexually transmitted diseases, and unintended pregnancy. In 2013 among high school students in Texas:

  • 9% had ever had sexual intercourse.
  • 1% did not use a condom during last sexual intercourse (among students who were currently sexually active).

“It didn’t work in PEPFAR back in 2006 when Republicans in Congress imposed abstinence-only restrictions on George W. Bush’s landmark and lifesaving global AIDS treatment and prevention program, and it simply will not work in Texas as an abstinence-only or nothing program,” added Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “We hope Members of the Texas Senate will show greater wisdom and courage when the measure comes before that body later this month.”

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