August 18, 2003
The Bush administration's third review within one year of the comprehensive sex education organization Advocates for Youth is prompting the group and a congressman to charge it is being punished because of its opposition to abstinence-only AIDS prevention programs. CDC will conduct the review, which it said was in response to complaints by Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-Pa.). Pitts and 23 other congressmen have questioned whether AFY and similar organizations are improperly using federal funds to lobby Congress. They are particularly concerned about a Web site (www.nonewmoney.org) that advocates against increased funding for abstinence-only programs.
AFY spokesperson Bill Barker said it has received CDC grants for 15 years without any requests for review or audits, but has now received three requests in the past year -- two from CDC and one from the General Accounting Office. "They want to impose a kind of censorship," he said.
Pitts introduced the amendment to the recently signed international AIDS bill mandating that one-third of its prevention money pay for abstinence education. The Bush administration and many conservative groups support abstinence-only education as the best way to educate children about sexuality and keep them safe from HIV. AFY, as well as mainstream organizations such as the American Medical Association and the congressionally mandated Institute of Medicine, support more comprehensive efforts that include discussion of abstinence as well as information for the sexually active on how to use condoms and other birth control methods.
CDC spokesperson Kathy Harben said an agency visit several weeks ago to AFY was part of an increase in visits to all groups receiving CDC funds. The review on Monday will be for the additional financial review requested by Pitts and the other congressmen.
In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) called the audits politically motivated. "While [AFY] will have opened its books three times in the last year, it appears that comparable organizations that routinely support Bush Administration policies have not experienced any such review," he wrote.