This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
When young people are risking death from HIV, public health officials and teachers must warn them of the risk and tell them either to abstain from sex or use condoms. There's no room for squeamishness or quibbling.
That's why the dust-up between the Utah AIDS Foundation and the Utah Department of Health over the content of public-service ads promoting condom use makes us crazy. Ditto for the parents in Herriman who want to pass a law making it a criminal act for a teacher to answer students' questions about certain sexual practices.
Let's keep our eye on the ball, folks. When young people are risking their lives or their health, adults can't be squeamish. They've got to provide straight answers.
If you question that, consider that the HIV infection rate is up 32 percent in Salt Lake County over last year; there were 25 new cases in the first three months of this year. The state health department also reports gonorrhea cases have increased more than 280 percent and chlamydia cases have gone up more than 60 percent since 2001 statewide.
The highest rates of HIV and STD infection occur among young people ages 15 to 24. Obviously, sexual abstinence outside of marriage and fidelity within it are the best guarantees against infection. Kids need to know that. But in today's world, it's also obvious that many young people have sex, and they need to know how to protect themselves from disease.
Older people can't believe that anyone is unaware today of how HIV is transmitted. But they forget that more young Utahns reach sexual maturity every day, and they weren't around when the AIDS epidemic was first identified and the U.S. surgeon general mailed a pamphlet to every home explaining the details. That was 20 years ago.
For our kids' sake, we can't afford to become complacent now.
The Utah AIDS Foundation claims that the Utah Health Department is squeamish about paying for public service ads that are blunt about condom use.
The health department replies that's rubbish, that it's not squeamish about the word "condoms" in ads, but that it doesn't approve ads where the style or tone of the ad detracts from the prevention message.
While the two sides fiddle, Rome burns.
When young people are risking their lives or their health, adults can't be squeamish. They've got to provide straight answers.