FATAL ADVICE by Cindy Patton


How Safe-Sex Education Went Wrong
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 An idiosyncratic and somewhat incoherent investigation into sex education in the age of AIDS. Patton (English/Temple Univ.) explores our country's response to the AIDS crisis vis-Ö-vis education and prevention, concluding that it is both homophobic and racist. When only the homosexual subculture seemed at risk, contends Patton, little effort was expended by US public health officials on education. Only later, when it became obvious that heterosexuals, too, could become infected with the AIDS virus, was there any concerted effort to prevent its spread. But by identifying AIDS almost exclusively with gay males, public health officials gave heterosexuals a false sense of security, failing to provide ``the tools they needed to evaluate and reduce their own risk of contracting AIDS.'' By denying that their own sons might be engaging in sex with other men or injecting drugs into their veins, policymakers did little to protect their children. They preferred to perceive them as too innocent to engage in risky behavior. And since the homosexual population was considered already at risk, little effort was put into stemming the epidemic among gay youth. Youth of color, Patton states, were also neglected by policy makers, since they were viewed as ``unlikely to change their behavior or escape the environment that marks them as premodern.'' In addition to criticizing our country's approach to sex education, Patton assaults the media for its lack of integrity. She insists, for example, that the teenage sexuality of Ryan White (who contracted HIV through a blood transfusion) was overlooked, while Philadelphia's ``Uncle Eddie'' Savitz was unfairly condemned for transmitting the AIDS virus to large numbers of teenage boys. With its painfully stilted academic prose and suffocating atmosphere of political correctness, Fatal Advice isn't likely to convince those who have seen greater complexity in the matter of AIDS education. (10 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8223-1750-8
Page count: 184pp
Publisher: Duke Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1996