Problematic diversion of HIV funds to abstinence-only

During a marathon debate over the state’s budget, a party line vote to divert funding from an HIV screening program to abstinence-only education sailed through the House Tuesday, April 2.

The amendment’s author, Stuart Spitzer, a surgeon from Kaufman, stated during a contentious and at-times-awkward debate that his “goal is for everybody to be abstinent until they’re married.” Spitzer cited — “I’ve had sex with one woman, and that’s my wife” — as proof of the effectiveness of Texas’ current education program.

Texas has the highest teen pregnancy rate and the highest repeat teen pregnancy rate in the United States. It also receives more federal funding than any other state designated for abstinence education. Spitzer’s amendment proposes increasing the annual abstinence education budget from five to eight million dollars per-year.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, over 76,000 people in the state are reported to have HIV. It also estimates that more than 13,000 people in the Lone Star state are living with HIV but are unaware of their status. From 2009 to 2013, the number of Texans known to have HIV increased by nearly 20 percent.

Through the duration of those years, lawmakers relied on abstinence education to equip young people. These policies are ineffective at best and downright dangerous at worst.

By defunding programs that educate citizens on preventative measures that empower them to practice safer sex jeopardizes people’s livelihoods. By holding their constituents to their own puritanical standards, GOP lawmakers who champion this amendment prove how out of touch they are with reality: a reality where Texans have sex without considering how their local representatives feel about the matter.