The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘Sex-positive’ D.C. briefly promoted Trump’s abstinence-only sex education policy

(Phil Noble/Reuters)

Talk about strange bedfellows.

The District government — which proudly boasts a “sex-positive” public health strategy — this week became an unexpected and fleeting ally to the Trump administration’s abstinence-only approach to sex education.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s office on Monday headlined its weekly roundup of local, federal and privately funded grant opportunities with $14 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for “sexual risk avoidance education.”

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The funding is meant for “projects that will implement sexual risk avoidance education to teach youth participants how to voluntarily refrain from non-marital sexual activity,” according to the report included in the email blast from the Mayor’s Office of Partnerships and Grants.

It was confusing message coming out of the D.C. government, which typically tries to educate residents about the risks of sexual activity without urging them not to be sexually active.

Schools in the nation’s capital teach comprehensive sex education and distribute condoms. And local public health officials say they way to combat high rates of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases is by recognizing the realities of residents’ sex lives instead of judging them.

“People should have the kind of sex they want, and it should be emotionally and physically safe,” Michael Kharfen, who manages STD prevention programs for the local Department of Health, said in an interview last month.

After a Washington Post reporter tweeted about the inclusion of the “sexual risk avoidance” funding in the city’s weekly roundup, the grants office removed the program from its report and sent out a new email.

“It was an important correction to align with D.C. Values and policy,” Pat Henry, deputy director of the office, said in an email.

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