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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
March 24, 2006

Records may be used against HIV work

Anti-gay group makes huge Freedom of Information
request on AIDS education

Cleveland--An anti-gay organization has made a huge public records request that appears to be aimed at harassing organizations that do HIV prevention work in the LGBT community, and putting political pressure behind efforts to de-fund them.

Mission America, of Columbus, has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for �tens of thousands of pages� of documents about Ohio�s AIDS service organizations.

The group has close ties to Concerned Women for America and teaches that �finding homosexuality repulsive is a natural human instinct� and �educational programs that in any way condone or support homosexuality should be stopped immediately in all U.S. schools.�

Mission America founder Linda Harvey has referred to Ohio�s AIDS organizations as �bloated� in documents on her group�s website.

�The millions of dollars spent on pointless education about condoms and safe sex don�t seem to change the behaviors of most homosexuals,� she says.

The group�s �Choice 4 Truth� project teaches teens that, �When the AIDS crisis drew national attention in the 1980s, gay organizations turned the health crisis into an opportunity to get massive funding for AIDS research--much of which has, without public knowledge, been used instead to promote the homosexual cause.�

That seems to be at the heart of the public records request.

In her January letter to the Ohio Department of Health, Harvey asks for records from fiscal year 2000 to 2005 including AIDS deaths by mode of transmission, numbers of new infections and mode of transmission since 1993, copies of all materials, lobbying materials and how they are funded, and �how compliance with Ohio law regarding abstinence until marriage interferes with HIV prevention education programs to youth.�

AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland executive director Earl Pike took issue with the �bloated� description.

He pointed out at a March 22 press conference that the Taskforce currently operates with less than eight percent administrative overhead, which he described as almost �dangerously low.�

Part of the purpose of the conference was to illustrate the �transparency� of AIDS organizations compared to Harvey�s own group.

Pike sent Harvey about 1,500 pages of documents along with a cover letter expressing his support for open information, partly as a way to show the lack of need for secrecy on the part of the AIDS Taskforce. The Taskforce was not required to send any documents themselves because Harvey�s request was to the state health department.

�Your FOI request . . . evidences an advanced knowledge of HIV/AIDS that I can find nowhere else in the writings on your website,� Pike wrote. �It is reasonable to suppose that you had some assistance in drafting this request. My question, then, is this: Who might you or Mission America have worked with to prepare and submit the request?�

Harvey also attacks both AIDS organizations and the media for questioning the effectiveness of �abstinence only until marriage� sex education programs. The programs, many of which are funded by the state health department, are backed by evangelical Christian groups.

Pike, who opposes the programs as ineffective, anti-gay and overtly religious, is concerned about Harvey�s relationship to the groups that back them.

He said he expects that Mission America will find any non-abstinence HIV prevention programs objectionable, no matter how effective or scientifically based, then attempt to shut them down.

Specifically, Pike said, they will likely target outreach to gay and bisexual men in bathhouses and public sex environments, condom distribution and instruction, or programs that provide socialization opportunities for people with AIDS and positive images and messages about GLBT people.

Pike said that, while he was familiar with a number of groups with which Mission America has ties, he had not heard much about them, so he began looking at the organization�s websites.

He pushed a button, and pages of quotes from the website filled the screen, saying that people who are supportive of homosexuality should be kept away from children.

�As a heterosexual man, I find this very frightening,� he said, noting that, in Harvey�s opinion, his own two children should be taken away.

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