Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rationality Prevails

As reported earlier here at the cab, Dallas decided to reconsider its ban on distribution of condoms by public health officials. Today they took a vote, and ended the ban because of the growth of HIV/AIDs cases in the city.

With Republican Maurine Dickey joining Democrats Jim Foster and John Wiley Price, the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted 3-2 Tuesday morning to overturn a 14-year-old ban on county health workers distributing free condoms in high-risk neighborhoods.

Republican Commissioners Kenneth Mayfield and Mike Cantrell, both of whom supported the ban in 1995, voted against overturning it, saying they feared it could lead to condoms being distributed in schools. But Dickey, who wasn’t on the court in 1995, said she was more concerned about the high cost of treating people with HIV/AIDS.

According to a report prepared by the county’s Health and Human Services Department, which recommended overturning the ban, the lifetime cost to treat someone with HIV is more than $600,000.

“I think we need to put the taxpayers first,” Dickey said. “If we prevent two people from getting AIDS in Dallas County, we will have saved over $1 million of the taxpayers money.”

Mayfield proposed an alternative under which county health workers would be allowed to distribute condoms only to people who already have HIV/AIDS or a sexually transmitted disease, people who’ve had sex with someone who has HIV/AIDS or an STD, and people who’ve had sex with prostitutes. Mayfield said his proposal, which was defeated by the same majority that later voted to overturn the ban, also would prohibit the distribution of condoms in schools.
Zachary Thompson, director of the health department, told the court that decisions about distributing condoms in schools would be left to individual districts. Thompson also said while the overall rate of new HIV infections in Dallas County has remained relatively steady over the last several years, numbers have gone up dramatically in certain populations, including African-Americans and people ages 13-24.
Dallas is the only major metropolitan area in Texas where health workers were prohibited from distributing condoms as part of education and prevention efforts, Thompson said.
“I just think it’s an idea who’s time has come,” Thompson said after the ban was overturned.
When the ban was approved in 1995, commissioners said distributing condoms would encourage illegal and immoral behavior. In conjunction with the ban, commissioners also approved regulations requiring health programs to emphasize abstinence.

Sometimes things go well. It helps to have proof of the damage being done. Please note, the rational Republican used the reason that costs were high, so she counterbalances doing the right thing with her constituency that wouldn't go along if the public interest was being served before the pocketbooks. It's increasingly embarrassing that Republicans are out there being treated like decent folks even when they prove over and over that they're really, really recidivists by choice.

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