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On their website, the Centers for Disease Control maintain a fact sheet on HIV/AIDS among American youth. Their logo reminds the reader that "HIV Prevention Saves Lives;" the fact sheet itself stresses the importance of providing comprehensive information to young people about how to protect themselves from HIV infection, including information about condom use. The CDC's advice is consistent with that of the Institute of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, other federal government institutions that set U.S. public health standards.

Since 1997, the U.S. Congress has allocated more than $350 million-$100 million in fiscal year 2002 alone-to support abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that cannot, by law, follow this advice. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which administers federal abstinence-only programs, cannot grant these funds to abstinence-only programs that would pursue DHHS' own stated objective to "increase the proportion of adolescents who . . . use condoms if sexually active."

Federally funded abstinence-only programs, in keeping with their federal mandate, deny children basic information that could protect them from HIV/AIDS infection and discriminate against gay and lesbian children. In so doing, these programs not only interfere with fundamental rights to information, to health and to equal protection under the law. They also place children at unnecessary risk of HIV infection and premature death. In the case of HIV/AIDS, what they don't know may kill them.

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