October 22, 2010
AIDS Alliance is part of a group of organizations working to maintain the funding for Division of Adolescent & School Health (DASH) at the CDC. DASH is the only dedicated funding stream for school-based HIV prevention. DASH has effectively worked with schools across the country to build a coordinated approach to school health education. Through this system youth receive a broad array of health education, which includes not just HIV and other STD prevention education but also teen pregnancy, obesity and tobacco prevention. HIV prevention is the largest part of DASH funding and programming and this is how HIV prevention curriculum and lessons are designed and delivered in the public schools. Forty nine states, Puerto Rico, twenty urban school districts and others receive DASH funding for HIV prevention school-based curriculum.
It is now in jeopardy because in an attempt to streamline federal funding, the Senate Appropriations Committee has inadvertently lumped this DASH funding into a category focused on support for obesity-related chronic disease prevention. 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.
AIDS Alliance's stand is that this is one of the most important advocacy issues we face in 2010 and we as a community need to act on it before December. 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. 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. It's about promoting understanding and acceptance among youth and providing safe spaces in schools and communities for youth that are "different." And finally it's about valuing LGBTQ youth and youth of color from large urban school districts, two populations of focus for DASH HIV programming.
At a time when the National HIV/AIDS Strategy highlights that fact that 25% of all new HIV infections are among young people and stresses the importance of comprehensive prevention education to help reduce new infections AND there is national concern around bullying in schools -- especially, but not limited to LGBTQ youth -- why would we weaken and possibly loose the system that addresses these issues? That just doesn't make sense to me. If we are committed to the future of youth, we should be strengthening DASH in the years going forward, not potentially dismantling it.
We will be providing you with more information and calling on you as a community and as individuals for various actions over the next month to avoid this. Below is an invitation to a conference call next week to get updated on where things stand & what you can do. Instructions on how to get call in info are in the email below. For more information, click here to view a letter submitted to Congress about this issue recently.
Over the past several months, DASH funded national partner organizations have been coordinating initiatives aimed at supporting DASH's resources through the annual Congressional appropriations process. We are coming together and will be hosting a conference call to discuss the current situation and provide resources, information and materials designed to encourage you to undertake complimentary actions.
This call will take place Thursday, October 28th, at 4pm EST.
Please RSVP to Suzanne Miller at the National Coalition of STD Directors: firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be sent the toll-free call information and materials for the call. This call will also be recorded and posted online for those that cannot make the call.
Advocates for Youth
AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth & Families
National Association for Sport and Physical Education
National Coalition of STD Directors
National School Boards Association
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States
Society of State Directors of Health, Physical Education & Recreation