Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Amendment to divert HIV funding would put Texas at a disadvantage

The state of Texas is under fire after the state House of Representatives passed Rep. Stuart Spitzer’s, R-Kauffman, amendment to divert $3 million from programs designed to prevent HIV and sexually transmitted infections to abstinence-only education programs. 

The action is criticized for taking away much-needed funding for sexual health education and giving it to abstinence-only education. And the criticism is rightly placed, for abstinence-only education continues to fail the state of Texas. Texas currently holds the fifth highest teen birth rate in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the eighth highest STI rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Abstinence-only education has proved to be ineffective. In a federally funded 2007 report, it was found that adolescents were no more likely to abstain from sex if they had participated in the programs.  

Furthermore, in a study published by Hannah Brückner and Peter Bearman in the Journal of Adolescent Health, it was found that, while taking virginity pledges could delay adolescent intercourse for up to 18 months, the vows were broken by 88 percent of pledgers. The study also found that once the pledge was broken, adolescents were less likely to use contraception.  

Abstinence-only education does not protect Texans. However, comprehensive sexual education has proven to be effective in reducing issues related to sex. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health concluded that  “adolescents who received comprehensive sex education had a lower risk of pregnancy than adolescents who received abstinence-only or no sex education.” It also dispelled long-standing anxieties that comprehensive sex education would inspire sexual activity, stating “teaching about contraception was not associated with increased risk of adolescent sexual activity or STIs.”

Unfortunately, Texas cut funding for vital aspects of sex education: STI and HIV prevention education. Texas had the third highest rate of HIV diagnoses in the country in 2013, and by cutting funding, Texas has just assured its citizens that the issue will not be resolved soon. 

During Spitzer’s introduction to the amendment, other Texas representatives voiced similar concern for Texans’ sexual health.  

“Is it not significant that Texas has the third-highest number of HIV cases in the country?” Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said, according to the Texas Tribune. “Does it bother you to know there are people walking around with HIV, undiagnosed?” 

It seems that Spitzer aims for lower rates of HIV and STIs as well. 

“Abstinence education is HIV prevention,” Spitzer said on the House floor March 31. “They are essentially the same thing.”

Spitzer may be off the mark. In a 2007 study performed by  The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, it was found that not only did abstinence-only education not reduce HIV and STI rates, it didn’t affect them at all. 

The representative’s main aims are not to further Texans’ sexual health knowledge.  

“My goal is for everyone to be abstinent until they are married,” Spitzer said in defense of his amendment.  

When state leaders focus on preventing sex rather than providing sexual health education, Texas’ youth is put at risk. They miss valuable disease and pregnancy prevention education in favor of abstinence-only education.  

Ultimately, we all want the same thing. We want fewer unplanned pregnancies, lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases and healthier Texans. So, it is time for the Texas government to do what is proven to help its citizens: leave abstinence-only education behind and promote effective sexual education.

Ferguson is an English and art history junior from Austin. Follow Ferguson on Twitter @LaurenFerg2.

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Amendment to divert HIV funding would put Texas at a disadvantage