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Local Non-Profit Fights for DASH Funding

By Candace Y.A. Montague

October 24, 2010

AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth, and Families, in Northwest, is sounding the alarm about possible funding loss for The Division of Adolescent & School Health (DASH) at the CDC. DASH provides education to youth in schools concerning various health topics such as asthma, obesity, nutrition, tobacco use, safety, and HIV/STD prevention. It is the only funding stream for school-based HIV prevention. DASH is now in jeopardy of losing its funding because the Senate Appropriations Committee has inadvertently lumped DASH funding into a category focused on support for obesity-related chronic disease prevention. According to AIDS Alliance, the implication is that $40 million in CDC School Health funds used to help states and large urban school districts plan, carry out and evaluate youth HIV prevention programs will be mingled with other funding streams and quite possibly lost in the process. Not good news when fighting an epidemic that is impacting DC youth.

DC Public Schools does not have a set scientific-based curriculum on sexual education. Michael Kharfen, Bureau Chief of Partnerships, Capacity Building & Community Outreach for HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD & TB Administration (HAHSTA), told the DC HIV/AIDS Examiner in May that the school system has been inconsistently teaching from a curriculum called Making Proud Choices, which focuses on making responsible decisions. Apparently, more must be done soon because the numbers on HIV and youth are rising. The DC Department of Health reports, roughly one out of every 100 young people ages 13 to 24 in the District is HIV infected or has full-blown AIDS. HIV infection rates among District young people tripled for the period 2000 to 2005 compared to the previous five years. Yet Making Proud Choices is all the school system has come up with for teaching sex education. Here are some other numbers from the CDC's School Health Profile System in 2008:

If DASH stays fully funded, perhaps the DC Public Schools can tap into its resources and help provide the science-based intervention necessary for educating DC's youth.

AIDS Alliance is urging its constituents to support DASH funding. "It's about valuing youth, in particular youth most at risk for HIV and all of the other health issues above. It's about valuing youth who attend public schools and thinking that they deserve the knowledge and skills to make healthy choices for themselves," says Carole Treston, Executive Director of AIDS Alliance via email. She goes on to say, "DASH programs make the link between healthy living, life skills, self-esteem and risk taking behaviors building blocks for lifelong HIV prevention. It's about reducing stigma--because if we talk more about HIV and HIV prevention in schools, we take a step in that direction."

AIDS Alliance will host a conference call regarding the next steps in saving DASH this Thursday, October 28th at 4 pm EST. For more information or to rsvp for the call, contact Suzanne Miller at the National Coalition of STD Directors: smiller@ncsddc.org.

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