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Students and AIDS-Prevention Curricula

We were very pleased to see the article on the Learning page "Schools Grapple With AIDS Issues," Oct. 5, since this is a crucial issue. The map accompanying the article shows Massachusetts as mandating HIV/AIDS education. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

HIV/AIDS education is only recommended in this state. The article describes two opposing sides of the HIV/AIDS education controversy: Advocates on one side support abstinence-based curricula, while the other side supports a safer-sex model. In fact these two educational strategies are not at odds.

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Sexuality-education programs that are most effective stress that postponement of sexual intercourse is the best way to prevent HIV/AIDS, but programs also provide information on how to practice effective contraception if students decide to have intercourse. The most effective sexuality-education programs also include training in decisionmaking, communication skills, and strategies in saying "no" and getting out of risky situations.

One student quoted in the article is a junior at the Boston Latin School, where the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts provided our "Heart-to-Heart" five-session sexuality-education and prevention program last year. "Heart-to-Heart" stresses postponement as the best way to prevent HIV/AIDS and places it in the context of sexuality education, including information on contraceptives and practical decisionmaking skills. A presentation by an educator with HIV helped students understand that the disea se could happen to them. While high school students must have this vital information, given the rates of sexual activity among teenagers, we must offer HIV/AIDS education to younger students who have not already begun sexual intercourse. Christine Hollis, Boston Planned Parenthood League of Mass. Population control

Regarding the article "A Visit of Compassion to Somalia," Oct. 5: Starving has been going on for thousands of years and will continue until we have worldwide population control. UNICEF and actress Audrey Hepburn should promote this. N. Holmes Chewelah, Wash.

News coverage of starvation in Africa often refers to "donor fatigue" on the part of Americans. This coverage overlooks frames of reference and causal background that contribute to the problem.

Have you mentioned that Africa actually pays out more in debt retirement and interest every year than it receives in aid? Have you mentioned that these loans or grants were often given to induce governments to line up on "our side" during the cold war, or that much of it wound up back in the coffers of large multinational corporations for equipment or mega-projects, inappropriate in the first place?

We need more discussion on the cause of these problems and on how the world community might work together toward long-range solutions. Waiting until conditions are so bad that all we can do is get food to starving refugees is not enough. L. Dean, M. Beaudoin, Concord, Calif. US population policy

Regarding the "Campaign Debate Box - Population Policy," Oct. 1: The United Nations report "The World's Women: Trends and Statistics, 1970-1990," released earlier this year, cites a case in Bombay where out of 8,000 abortions performed following amniocentesis, only one fetus would have been a boy. Thank you, President Bush, for suspending United States funds (my tax dollars) to the UN Population Fund and other organizations here and abroad that support and promote abortion. Dorothy Stanley, Winfield, Ill.

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