The Journal Smacks Down School Board Member's Unscientific Claim About Condoms

September 17th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

By Tracy Dingmann


I was a little worried when I saw the Journal give prominent placement to a news story detailing an Albuquerque School Board member’s shocking and virtually unchallenged assertion that condoms provide no barrier to sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS.

The story, headlined “APS Board Member: Condoms Don’t Stop STDs” appeared Thursday on the Metro Page.

APS school board member David Robbins made the public assertion Wednesday, when he told the board’s policy committee that condoms are not effective against diseases such as AIDS.

The discussion came up as board members discussed a change in the wording of policy regarding school-based health clinics.

Reporter Hailey Heinz, who usually does a great job crafting balanced stories, took until the ninth paragraph to mention that the Federal Drug Administration has ruled that even the tiniest of STD organisms cannot pass through a condom.

And that short passage was the only information that appeared in the story to counter Robbins’ claim.

I heard that day from a few Journal readers who were disturbed by the paper’s lack of pushback against the school board member’s controversial and unfounded statement.

And, as a personal believer in the value of actual science, I thought I might have fodder for a post that could really make the paper’s decision look foolish.

But then…

The Journal came Friday with a news story quoting two local public health doctors AND the Centers for Disease Control, who made scientific mincemeat of Robbins’ claims. The local doctors expressed alarm that a school board member would mislead the public in that way.

From the story, “Public Misled on Condoms?”:

“Every major medical and public health organization in the world supports condom use as the main protection against HIV” and other sexually transmitted diseases, said Dr. Bruce Trigg, medical director of the New Mexico Department of Health’s STD program.

Trigg called it a matter of “great concern” that a public official would question the effectiveness of condoms when 150 New Mexicans are diagnosed each year with HIV.

Thank goodness Journal editors realized they were obliged to slap that wildly unscientific claim down.

And it only took them one day. It doesn’t always happen that fast – and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all.

But I’m really glad they did it so promptly and thoroughly -just imagine the post I’d be writing if they didn’t!

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Barry Simon

    Even though the Journal did print some scientific information, there is no consequences for Mr. Robbins for blatantly misrepresenting the facts. Plus, he alerted right-wing constitutents that this issue would be discussed, making this less a blatant lie than a blatant political strategy. Or maybe it’s both. Meanwhile, I think there needs to be consequences for this kind of behavior. How can we recall him from the school board?

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