Reagan Again Urges Abstinence To Fight AIDS

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WASHINGTON--Schools must teach students to refrain from sexual intercourse before marriage if the battle against acquired immune deficiency syndrome is to be won, President Reagan told a group of physicians last week.

"Let's be honest with ourselves. AIDS information cannot be what some call 'value neutral,''' the President said in an April 1 speech to the College of Physicians in Philadelphia. "After all, when it comes to preventing AIDS, don't medicine and morality teach the same lessons?'' A transcript of his remarks was made available here.

When asked by a reporter before the speech whether he thought the best preventive measure against AIDS was "to just say no,'' Mr. Reagan reportedly said, "That's a pretty good answer.''

Second Speech in 2 Weeks

The President's speech marked the second time in as many weeks that he had addressed the topic of values in education before a major gathering. In an address late last month in Missouri, he told a group of educators and policymakers that "standards of right and wrong are essential to any life that is lived well and should be part of education.'' (See Education Week, April 1, 1987.)

His remarks to the physicians' group also came amid a continuing debate among his advisers over the proper scope of AIDS instruction.

The Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, has repeatedly called for sex education to begin as early as kindergarten and has advocated that such courses instruct students on the use of condoms as a means of reducing the risk of transmitting the AIDS virus.

Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, meanwhile, has emphasized the need for students to practice sexual restraint in his speeches on the topic.

According to press reports, the President told reporters before his speech that his own views on AIDS education largely parallel those of Mr. Bennett. But, he added, he does not oppose Dr. Koop's position.

"I don't quarrel with [the Surgeon General's stance], but I think that abstinence has been lacking in much of education,'' Mr. Reagan said.

"One of the things that's been wrong with too much of our education is that no kind of values of right and wrong are being taught in the education process,'' he continued. "And I think that young people expect to hear from adults ideas of what is right or wrong.''

'Emergency-Room Operation'

In his speech, the President likened the fight against AIDS to "an emergency-room operation--we've thrown everything we have into it.''

"But all the vaccines and medications in the world won't change one basic truth--that prevention is better than cure, and that's particularly true of AIDS, for which right now there is no cure,'' he added.

"This is where education comes in,'' he continued. "The federal role must be to give educators accurate information about the disease. Now how that information is used must be up to schools and parents, not government.''

On another public-health issue, the President urged the physicians to "teach your patients about the health risk of drugs. You can show them--particularly your young patients--why it's important to them, their families, and their communities to 'just say no' to drugs.''

In his speech, the President also addressed the role of schools in strengthening the nation's economic position. His remarks on the subject were virtually the same as those in his speech in Missouri last month.

"[P]reparing America for the 21st century ... includes finding ways to make the best use of our science and technology,'' he said. "It includes building a fair, open, and growing world economy, which will be the source of many of the jobs of our future. It includes making sure that American education is the best in the world, investing in our human and intellectual capital, so our children are ready for those jobs.''

The President said that keeping the lid on taxes and eliminating "needless regulations'' would improve "the climate for entrepreneurship and growth here at home, so that the only limits on what our children can achieve are the limits of their dreams.''

"We've made great progress in both those areas,'' he said. "But the job won't be done until we get control of federal spending, so that tax rates won't go up again. And that's why it's time for Congress to cut the federal budget and leave the family budget alone.''--T.M.

Vol. 06, Issue 28

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