Louisiana: Condom Distribution May Stop; Bill Would Keep State From Using Federal Dollars to Hand Out Condoms
June 1, 2005
Without debate, Louisiana's House of Representatives approved on Thursday an amendment to the state's budget that would prohibit the Office of Public Health (OPH) from using federal funds to purchase and distribute condoms. Sponsored by Rep. Gary Beard (R-Baton Rouge), the measure now goes to the Senate, where some public health and AIDS advocates hope the amendment may be removed.
Providing people condoms "is something that's saving lives," said Eugene Collins, director of education and prevention at Baton Rouge AIDS Society, which receives state-provided condoms to distribute on the street and to businesses. Baton Rouge tops the state for STDs, noted Collins.
If passed, Beard's amendment could lead to an increase in STDs in Louisiana and a loss of federal funds, said Sharon Howard, OPH's assistant secretary.
OPH spends a portion of a CDC grant to purchase and distribute condoms in high STD-prevalence areas. Last year, the office used about $500,000 of a $5 million grant to distribute 15 million condoms statewide. In OPH's most recent plan, for which CDC requires community input, the state will allocate $700,000 for condoms and lab equipment.
Changing that formula could jeopardize funding for Louisiana, Howard said. "It's not state dollars. It's federal dollars," she said. "In 2003, we were number one in gonorrhea, number two in chlamydia."
Howard said that Louisiana distributes condoms at bars, barber shops, hospitals, and clinics, but not at schools. Beard publicly opposes condom distribution at schools and cites this as a reason for his proposed amendment. Beard said he would rather see such federal funds spent on prescription drugs for the elderly.
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.)
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.