New CDC chief: Condoms for everyone

Add this share


The Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention takes a large step away from its Bush-mandated doctrine of conservative politics as health policy when Thomas Frieden takes the helm on Monday.

Trouble is, the former New York City health chief — well-known for getting into the trenches of tough and controversial health issues with reality-based solutions — is already making conservatives uneasy. Apparently, they don’t care for his approach to HIV prevention.

What was so “controversial”? Giving away condoms. Despite the science showing condoms prevent HIV and other STDs, conservatives and the last White House said abstinence outside of marriage was the best way to prevent HIV. The gaping hole in that logic is that gay man can only get married in six states, a list that doesn’t include New York or Georgia.

“Are we going to have a national condom distribution program, funded by the taxpayers?” said Sadie Fields, chairwoman of the Georgia Christian Alliance.

For his part, Frieden has talked only in general terms about his priorities for the federal health agency and not his campaigns against smoking, promoting needle exchange and giving condoms away in New York.

He spearheaded a campaign to increase taxes on cigarettes and ban smoking in restaurants and bars. He supported needle exchange programs and condom distribution to help prevent AIDS, producing condoms with the city’s NYC logo and the slogan “Get Some.”

He enraged restaurant owners when he expanded the city’s smoking ban to include all workplaces, including restaurants and bars.

“The key for me is not being controversial,” he said. “The key for me is having an impact.”

But even with his progressive policies while in New York, he had a sometimes contentious relationship with gay and HIV groups there.

Back in New York—particularly among gay and AIDS groups—the debate about Frieden’s legacy as city health commissioner has just begun.

Frieden and community watchdogs have shared an often-contentious relationship, yet even his staunchest critics must concede some victories in AIDS prevention to him. Condom distribution during Frieden’s term greatly expanded; more HIV tests were performed than ever before in the city’s history; the number of supportive-housing units funded by the federal Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) program more than doubled (and the number of HIV-related deaths also dropped significantly, though many experts credit improved HIV meds for the decrease.)

There is, however, some business left unfinished, particularly in reforming New York State laws regarding HIV testing and counseling. It was a battle Frieden lost to AIDS groups who thought the reforms inadequately addressed stigma; a battle about which he’d grown noticeably quiet recently.

Subscribe: We’ve got a weekly eblast.
Twitter: Oh, yeah. We tweet the news, too, so follow us.
Facebook: Become a fan of our page.
YouTube: Videos, too.


Project Q Atlanta goes on hiatus after 14 years

On Sept. 1, 2008, Project Q Atlanta promised a hyper-local “queer media diet” for Atlanta. The site set out to bring LGBTQ news, in-depth...

Photos catch Purple Dress Run invading Midtown

After three years of pandemic-inflicted limitations, Atlanta’s gay rugby squad let loose on one of its most popular events. The Atlanta Bucks Purple Dress...

Ooo Bearracuda: Photos from Bear Pride’s Main Event

The seventh annual Atlanta Bear Pride hit the ground running on Friday with packed houses at Woofs, Heretic and Future. Turned out, they hadn’t...

Atlanta Bear Pride set to go hard and long all weekend

That low, growing growl you hear is a nation of gay bears headed for Atlanta Bear Pride this weekend. By the time they arrive,...

PHOTOS: Armorettes bring back Easter Drag Race magic

Gay Atlanta’s queens of do-good drag brought the sunshine to a cloudy afternoon on Saturday when Heretic hosted the triumphant return of Armorettes Easter...