Officials at the Ohio Department of Education are not applying for a $1.25 million, five-year grant from CDC intended to prevent the spread of HIV among teenagers, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. According to Karla Carruthers, spokesperson for the education department, the state does not have an existing program to support the grant and developing one would require the Legislature to approve changes in the state's health education policies.
To receive a grant, each state must submit a five-year plan for promoting HIV prevention among teenagers and establish a panel to review materials that might be offered to schools, the Plain Dealer reports. Based on a CDC formula that accounts for population, poverty levels and other factors, Ohio would qualify for $250,000 annually for five years. According to the Plain Dealer, Ohio received the grant for 12 years but dropped out in 2000 after some state lawmakers disagreed with some language and condom-promotion aspects of a teacher-training program. Howell Wechsler, director of CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health, said some of the issues in Ohio stemmed from portions of sample teaching plans provided by CDC, which are not required. "States have a great amount of flexibility in deciding what their strategies for HIV prevention are," Wechsler said, adding, "Certainly among the 48 states participating in this program, there's a tremendous diversity of approaches."
Some advocates of HIV/AIDS education in Ohio schools said that they do not understand why the state will not apply for the grant, the Plain Dealer reports. "It doesn't make sense on any level to reject the money," Earl Pike, executive director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, said. Marcia Egbert, a senior program officer for health and human services at the George Gund Foundation, said that she does not believe Ohio has the "luxury, given how AIDS and HIV numbers have spiked, to miss any opportunity to get better education and to get better support into the state." A spokesperson for Gov. Ted Strickland (D) said Strickland was unaware the state is not pursuing the CDC grant. Virgil Brown, a member of the State Board of Education, on Friday said that the board has not discussed the grant and was not aware that the Nov. 21 application deadline is approaching. "I don't know what the decision would be, but it should not be lost by default," Brown said. According to the Plain Dealer, Utah is the only other state that does not apply for the federal grant (Rollenhagen, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/30).
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