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Commentary...We Need More HIV/AIDS Instruction In Our Schools...Adam Tenner

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Last week, D.C. Appleseed released a report card on HIV/AIDS services in the District. Commentator Adam Tenner says it's ironic that the lowest grade went to those in charge of D.C's public schools. Tenner is the Executive Director of Metro TeenAids.

Read below for Adam Tenner's commentary...

In order to end or even to curtail our local epidemic, we must first bring HIV prevention to scale. We must ensure that every resident (HIV positive and HIV negative alike) has the information and skills they need to protect themselves and their partners.

Our local data show that high school students are taking sexual risks with multiple partners at rates that mirror those of adults. While youth report more consistent condom use, there is reason to worry that the stage is set for additional generations of HIV infected youth and adults.

Our best and most cost effective chance to reach the most people most effectively is through our schools. A quality HIV education can offer the skills for a lifetime of healthy choices.

In December 2007, the State Board of Education voted unanimously for new Health Learning Standardswhich include high quality, science-based lessons on HIV and AIDS.

A survey by Metro TeenAIDS and the DC Healthy Youth Coalition, which is available on the Metro TeenAidswebsite, showed that nearly all parents are concerned about the high rates of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases in the District. And that an overwhelming 93 % of parents in DC support HIV and sex education that starts with abstinence but also includes information about condoms, contraception and factual information about sex.

Yet, nearly two years after the Health Learning Standards were passed, HIV and Health Education are still not taken seriously by the systems that are responsible for educating our youth.

The Health Learning standards are not so different from the standards for math or reading and yet we are not measuring what students are learning.

DC Appleseed â??s findings on the low number of charter schools teaching curriculum-based health education is shocking. And the worst is that some charter schools do not believe that they need to meet the Health Learning Standards because the standards are not mandated by No Child Left Behind. Parents who are concerned for their childrenâ??s health should be outraged!

Mayor Fenty and the members of the City Council, we need your help in making HIV prevention education a priority for our schools. We need those in charge of education in DC to respond in a manner that reflects the reality of teaching students who live in the city with the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the country. There must be a clear mandate to provide HIV education and to evaluate its effectiveness.

Three years ago, a young woman testified in front of the school board and said that she got 10 minutes of HIV education in 10th grade and that it was not enough. She passed away several months later from complications related to HIV. She was 22. Sadly, her words still ring true for too many of DCâ??s youth.

The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions of WAMU 88.5 or American University. What do you think? Go to CONVERSATION.WAMU.ORG and click on "Commentary Forum."

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