AIDS Activists Distribute Condoms at High Schools

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In an attempt to draw attention to what they believe are inadequate AIDS-education programs, members of a controversial coalition of AIDS activists have begun distributing condoms outside high schools in a handful of districts nationwide.

Late last month, members of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT-UP, distributed condoms and pamphlets about AIDS and "safe sex" practices to students in Woodbridge, Va., a suburb of Washing/con, and in suburban Oklahoma City. Over the past two years, the group has distributed condoms to students in New York City, Washington, and another Oklahoma district.

The coalition of local groups is probably best known for staging events that draw attention to AIDS patients and what they believe is a lack of government funding and activity to fight the disease. For example, members have disrupted services at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and held sit-ins at federal buildings.

School officials in several communities said they were not pleased with the group's activities outside of their buildings.

William Spaeth, administrative assistant to the superintendent in the Putnam City school district in suburban Oklahoma City, said the principal of Putnam City High School asked the activists to leave school grounds after they began distributing information and condoms in the parking lot late last month.

'When were out to make a point that our AIDS-education curriculum is weak," he said. 'We think our AIDS education is probably in line with what the parents in our community want."

Although last month's actions are not part of a coordinated national plan, members of several ACT-UP chapters said distributing condoms and literature outside of schools is a logical way to draw attention to their cause.

"We're doing it because schools are not," said Robert Warnock, the media coordinator for the Washington chapter of ACT-UP, which has distributed condoms outside of schools twice a month since February.

In New York City, said Steven Schiff, the co-coordinator of Youth Education Life-Line, a local ACT-UP committee, condoms have been distributed at different schools once a week since 1989. That practice will continue, he said, until the district implements its ground-breaking program to make condoms available on request and without parental permission in all of its high schools.

All schools in the district are supposed to have that program in place by the end of the school year. --E.F.

Vol. 11, Issue 11, Page 10

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