Confusing the issue

Posted: Tuesday, December 04, 2001

I am very curious where Mr. Schmitz got his figures that he quoted in Sunday's letter about Shanti. If the "CDC" he referred to is indeed the Centers for Disease Control, then he would see that there is a whole section on the CDC Web site devoted to the importance of school-based programs being critical for reaching youth before behaviors are established.

"Because risk behaviors do not exist independently, topics such as HIV should be integrated and ongoing for all students in kindergarten through high school. Research has clearly shown that the most effective programs are comprehensive ones that include a focus on delaying sexual behavior and provide information on how sexually active young people can protect themselves." Why is it so important to reach youth? The CDC says "It has been estimated that half of all new HIV infections in the United States are among people under 25, and the majority of young people are infected sexually."

I am completely baffled as to where Mr. Schmitz obtained his facts. He claims that Shanti is "robbing resources needed elsewhere by placing such an emphasis on educating mainstream students."

These mainstream students are the ones that had a million questions for me last week about HIV and AIDS, the ones who asked for more and more red ribbons to give to their friends, the ones who thanked me for educating them on the myths (see Sunday's letter) and facts about the disease, the ones who, unfortunately, may never get to talk about and ask these questions at home because their parents are too "politically and socially conservative" to bring it up. Prevention works. Perhaps this might explain why numbers of HIV cases have decreased over the years. I wish Mr. Schmitz luck in getting his facts straight and hope he finds better things to do with his time than confuse the community further on this matter.

Eileen Wilson

Executive Director

Shanti of Southeast Alaska

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