On Monday, November 26 the District of Columbia released the first comprehensive statistics on the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the area through its Epidemiology Annual Report. Nationwide, the rate of HIV is 14.0 per 100,000 individuals while in the District the number is 128.4 per 100,000.1 Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s report declares AIDS “a modern epidemic.”2
The impact on minority populations is especially devastating; 81 percent of new HIV cases occur in the African-American community despite the fact that its members comprise only 57 percent of the city’s total population. Moreover, while Black women make up only 58 percent of the female population in the District, they account for 90 percent of all new female HIV cases and 93 percent of women living with AIDS.3
The release of this data comes as the Board of Education considers new standards for health education. The Board developed a draft of standards with input from community members including teachers, parents, and organizational leaders during a series of roundtables.4
The updated health standards focus on comprehensive sexuality education applied from pre-Kindergarten to the 10th grade. The curriculum stresses abstinence alongside complete and accurate information regarding STDs, HIV/ AIDS, and pregnancy prevention. In addition, the curriculum discusses sexual orientation and the equal value of individuals from all backgrounds. The health curriculum was developed from the Indiana content standards as well as the New Jersey Health Frameworks. In addition, the new DC curriculum is based off SIECUS’ Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: K–12.5
On November 28, the Board met to hear public testimony on the standards. A majority of the thirty plus individuals testifying before the Board strongly supported the updated standards. Participants included parents, pediatricians, and individuals involved with the District’s fight against AIDS. Many supporters specifically referenced the newly released AIDS data for the District.6
Adam Tenner, a local activist who serves as the executive director of Metro TeenAIDS said, “The release of the new HIV statistics make the argument more urgently than ever that we need to use the most effective means to reduce new HIV infections and to reduce stigma around HIV in general.” He continued, “We think the standards are based in the strongest science available.”7
The Board of Education met again on December 13, unanimously voting in favor of the new curriculum.8
District of Columbia HIV/ AIDS Epidemiology Annual Report (District of Columbia: Government of the District of Columbia, Department of Health, 2007), 3, 19-22. <http://www.doh.dc.gov/doh/frames.asp?doc=/doh/lib/doh/services/
State Superintendent of Education, “OSSE Releases Draft Education Standards for Public Schools,” Press Release published 30 October 2007. <http://newsroom.dc.gov/show.aspx/agency/seo/section/2/release/12070>
Health Standards, (DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 2007), 6-15.
Gary Emerling, “Public ponders sex-ed classes,” Washington Times, 29 November 2007, accessed 3 December 2007 , http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20071129/METRO/111290084/1004>.
Gary Emerling, “Guidelines under fire for ‘biased’ sex courses,” Washington Times, 28 November 2007, accessed 3 December 2007 <http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20071128/METRO/111280055/1004/METRO>.
Health Instruction Set; Abstinence is Stressed, Washington Post (14 December 2007), accessed 20 December 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/13/AR2007121302478.html>.