New AIDS Curriculum for Schools

Frieden will not commit to condom education in curriculum for September

Under sharp questioning from an audience member during a March 3 town meeting, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner, said that an updated AIDS curriculum for city school students would be ready by September.

“We’ve undertaken a process to update it,” Frieden said. “That process is well under way.”

New York is one of 38 states, along with the nation’s capital, that require HIV education in the public schools. New York also requires that the community give input into the HIV curriculum.

The elementary school HIV curriculum was last updated in 1992, the middle school HIV curriculum was updated in 1995 and the HIV curriculum for high school students was updated in 1996.

While Frieden said that the department would produce “a curriculum that is better” he also said later during the town meeting that some portions of the curriculum, such as condom demonstrations, would require community comment. “That’s a discussion that the community has to have,” Frieden said. He also noted that the final result may not please everyone.

“I don’t know that we will be able to achieve everything that you would want or I would want,” Frieden said.

The health commissioner was questioned by Ann Northrop, the co-host of Gay USA, a cable news show, and a longtime gay and AIDS activist, who was not satisfied with his response.

“I think it’s ridiculous that he is not publicly and privately demanding better, fuller AIDS education in the schools,” Northrop said in an interview. “I think that it is his responsibility as health commissioner for the city.”

Northrop noted that Frieden held a February 11 press conference to announce one case of a gay man who was recently infected with multi-drug resistant who had rapidly progressed to AIDS, but she saw no similar sense of urgency about the AIDS curriculum.

“I think it’s unbelievable that he would hold his press conference to insist that there is a public health emergency and not being doing anything urgent about educating youth,” she said.

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