C is for Cat? Car? Connecticut?
No. Not even close.
You’re getting warmer. Hint: You wear it.
Aha, the dreaded “C-word”: CONDOM!
The mere utterance is likely to lead to another battle in the culture wars.
But there: I’ve said it.
Which is more than the Bush Administration is prepared to do.
That’s what I discovered while surfing another bunch of Cs -- the CDC:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I was Googling for some pre-travel health advice, and stumbled across
something called “The Yellow Book”, which the CDC website tells me contains
information for international travelers. It says its “Travelers' Health”
section “is one of the CDC's most-visited websites…considered by many to be
the gold standard on travel information”. I learn it has been “expanded to
offer new information on scuba diving safety, high altitude travel,
travelers with special needs, and traveling with children.”
So I click and navigate to the site, where I am diverted by the words
“Sexually Transmitted Diseases.” There, “Travelers Health” offers the
following advice to people infected with HIV:
“The importance of safe sex practices should be emphasized to the
HIV-infected traveler to prevent other sexually transmitted diseases, avoid
transmission of HIV to others, and prevent acquisition of different HIV
strains that may limit therapeutic options (e.g. non-nucleoside reverse
transcriptase inhibitors are not active against HIV-2). Bringing a
personal supply of condoms may be advisable, as the quality and availability
of condoms can be unreliable in parts of the developing world.” (italics
But then I realize I’m reading the 2001-2002 edition, and learn that “The
Yellow Book” is updated every two years.
So in “search within results” I type “2003-2004.”
Now, I’m in the most up-to-date spot.
I again navigate to “Sexually Transmitted Diseases,” where I find the
following advice for HIV-infected travelers:
“Travel, particularly to developing countries, can carry substantial risks
for exposure to opportunistic pathogens…especially those who are severely
immunosuppressed. Discussing the itinerary with a health-care provider may
identify area- and activity-specific risks that can be addressed. Patients
should identify sources of medical care in the planned destination before
departure and seek medical attention promptly when ill.”
It continues: “Because antiretroviral medications are not available in many
parts of the world, patients should bring an adequate supply of their
medications, along with copies of prescriptions. Attention should be given
to refrigeration of medications. For extended visits, travelers should
consult with their providers in advance regarding a plan for maintaining
appropriate medical follow-up and supplies of medications. Avoid changes in
the medication regimen shortly before travel, to ensure that no side effects
or complications of a new regimen occur while traveling.”
But I have the sneaky feeling that there’s something wrong with this
Aha! The dreaded “C-word” has disappeared. No more CONDOMS.
Why am I not surprised? Because what I’m being given to read follows a
familiar pattern of the Bush Administration. The CDC website has been
changed to push conservative ideology.
It’s not the first time either. For example, the President has consistently
supported the view that sex education should teach “abstinence only” and not
include information on other ways to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and
pregnancy. As a result, a CDC initiative called “Programs That Work”
identified sex education programs that have been found to be effective in
scientific studies and provided this information through its website. All
five “Programs That Work” provided comprehensive sex education to teenagers,
and none were “abstinence-only”. CDC has now ended this initiative and
erased information about these proven sex education programs from its
Information about condom use and efficacy was also deleted from the CDC
website. The CDC replaced a comprehensive fact sheet on condoms with one
emphasizing condom failure rates and the effectiveness of abstinence.
And the President’s “just say no” agenda also extends overseas. He has
pledged $15 billion in an “Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief,” designed to
provide support to the 15 African, Caribbean, and Southeast Asian nations
most affected by HIV/Aids. But providing condoms is not part of the program.
The Bush Administration has also renewed a ban on providing aid funds to
overseas groups that help pregnant women, if they so much as discuss
Still, I’m disappointed. The website of the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) is visited by millions of people looking for the most
cutting edge information and advice. It’s a pity that the Bush
Administration continues to delete science and substitute information
designed to avoid offending his evangelical base.
Well, it’s just your tax dollars at work!
William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the
Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia for the U.S. State Department
and the U.S. Agency for International Development. He served in the
administration of President John F. Kennedy.
He can be reached through his blog at:
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