On October 13, 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law AB 629, the Sexual Health Education Accountability Act.1 This law strengthens existing California law, which states that if taught in schools, sexual health education must be medically accurate, age appropriate, and free of bias. Existing California law also states that HIV/AIDS education must be taught at least once in middle school and once in high school.
The Sexual Health Education Accountability Act, which will become law on January 1, 2008, ensures that state funds for community-based sex education are directed to areas with high rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unintended pregnancy. The Act specifies that funding for community-based sex education is to be spent on programs that, in addition to being medically accurate, and free of bias, also do not promote or teach religious doctrine, are culturally and linguistically appropriate, and include information about at least one FDA-approved method for preventing pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.
The passage of this law shows California’s continued dedication to accurate and complete education for its youth. This commitment to education is also evident in California’s distinction as the only state that has never applied for and never received Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funding. California would have been eligible for over $7 million of Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funding per year since Fiscal Year 1998. However, the state has consistently chosen not to apply for these funds due to the extraordinary restrictions upon how the money must be spent.
Governor Schwarzenegger also recently signed other legislation designed to improve HIV/AIDS prevention and testing efforts. AB 110 repealed a ban on using state funds to buy clean needles and syringes for distribution by needle-exchange programs.2 And, AB 682 aims to increase the number of people in California tested for HIV by allowing hospitals to routinely test patients for HIV unless they decline to be tested. Previously patients provided written consent for HIV tests.
At the same time, however, the governor vetoed AB 1334, which, in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV, would have provided prison inmates in California with condoms. In the veto message about this bill, Governor Schwarzenegger cited existing California laws that bar inmates from engaging in sexual activity, but stated that “condom distribution in prisons is not an unreasonable public policy, and it is consistent with the need to improve our prison health care system and overall public health.”3 Hence, Schwarzenegger did indicate that he would establish a pilot program in one prison within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to examine the risks and viability of a condom-availability program in preventing the spread of HIV and other STDs among inmates.4
- Official California Legislative Information, “AB 629 Assembly Bill- ENROLLED,” <http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/asm/ab_0601-0650/
- Samantha Young, “Schwarzenegger signs toxic toy bill, dozens others,” San Jose Mercury News, 15 October 2007, accessed 28 October 2007, <http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_7181288?nclick_check=1>.
- “Governor’s Move on Prison Condoms Gets Mixed Reviews,” California Healthline, 22 October 2007, accessed 19 November 2007, <http://www.californiahealthline.org/articles/2007/10/22/
- Young, “Schwarzenegger signs toxic toy bill, dozens others.”