White House AIDS Czar Expresses Support for San Francisco AIDS Program Accused of Misusing Federal HIV Prevention Funds
White House Office of National AIDS Policy Director Scott Evertz yesterday said that the Stop AIDS Project, which has been labeled obscene by some federal officials, does "good work" and "ought to be left alone," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "We're not going to roll back the clock on any good work that occurred in the past," Evertz told researchers at the University of California-San Francisco's Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/25). A report presented last year by the HHS inspector general stated that the Stop AIDS Project used some federal funds to provide HIV prevention workshops that encouraged sexual activity -- a violation of federal law -- and met the "legal definition of obscene material." CDC guidelines for HIV prevention programs state that the programs cannot promote sexual activity or intravenous drug use and must meet the obscenity standards set forth in the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Case Miller v. California (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/16/01). The fiscal year 2002 Labor-HHS appropriations bill (HR 3061), approved last month, contains an amendment requiring the HHS inspector general to conduct an audit of all federally funded AIDS prevention programs and report its findings to Congress (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/21/01). Evertz said yesterday that although the Stop AIDS Project was "'being put through the ringer,' there was no intention to submit community-based organizations throughout the country to 'inordinately time-consuming and costly audits.'" Evertz added that he felt the Stop AIDS Project was meeting guidelines that call for local review of AIDS programs. Such a review was carried out last year by a panel of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. James Loyce, director of the San Francisco Office of AIDS, said that Evertz' comments were "encouraging" but that "it remains to be seen what the [HHS] inspector general" will do about the audits.
Evertz acknowledged yesterday that he had advised President Bush to appoint former Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to serve as co-chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, an appointment that some of the San Francisco researchers criticized, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "While you're reassuring, we're concerned. We feel that bad times are ahead of us with this administration," Tom Coates, director of the UCSF AIDS Research Institute, said. Some AIDS experts have been "sharply critical" of Coburn's questioning of the effectiveness of condoms and his "characterization of homosexuality as an immoral lifestyle," the Chronicle reports. However, Evertz noted Coburn's "instrumental" role in securing funds for the Ryan White CARE Act (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/25).