Federal AIDS Programs Rife With ‘Waste,’ Watchdog Group Report Says
Federally funded HIV/AIDS programs represent an "epidemic of waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement," according to a report released yesterday by Citizens Against Government Waste, the Washington Times reports. The report, "AIDS Programs: An Epidemic of Waste," states that "[i]n the early years of AIDS, activists were justified in asking for money for the mysterious epidemic that everyone was afraid of and no one knew how to avoid or treat." However, "increased knowledge and improved treatment" staved off the "dire predictions," and now "waste and abuse" in federally funded HIV/AIDS programs should be "eliminat[ed] or redirect[ed]" (Price, Washington Times, 2/15). The report notes that $13 billion is set aside in fiscal year 2003 for AIDS research, treatment and services. The reports adds that more money was spent on AIDS in 1996 than on any other disease, although heart disease killed approximately 17 times as many people (Rezac, "AIDS Programs: An Epidemic of Waste," 2/14). As an example of waste, the report points to a November 2001 HHS Inspector General report that determined that the San Francisco-based Stop AIDS Project was putting on workshops with funds from the CDC that "encourage sexual activity in direct violation of federal guidelines" for the use of such money (Washington Times, 2/15). The IG report prompted Congress to require an audit of all programs that receive CDC HIV prevention grants. CDC funds cannot go to programs that promote sexual activity or intravenous drug use, and all CDC-funded programs must meet obscenity standards set forth in the Supreme Court case of Miller v. California, the CAGW report notes.
The report also says that the government provides duplicate funds for HIV/AIDS treatment, as both Title I of the Ryan White CARE Act and Medicare/Medicaid provide health care for people with HIV/AIDS. In addition, the report notes that Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS, a program funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development that provides housing to low-income people with AIDS, "duplicates that agency's Section 8 housing program." According to the report, eliminating the duplicate funding could save $920 million annually ("AIDS Programs: An Epidemic of Waste," 2/14). CAGW president Tom Schatz said his group estimates that $1 billion annually is being used ineffectively, calling it a "very conservative estimate." He added that the report aims to "move money from areas where it's not being used effectively to areas [where] it would be effective," such as vaccine research, international HIV/AIDS efforts and drug subsidies. He noted that about 1,000 Americans "are on a waiting list for (AIDS) drugs" right now (Washington Times, 2/15).
Singling Out Efforts Aimed at Homosexuals?
The Human Rights Campaign yesterday expressed concern that the "misleading and biased" report "unnecessarily targets prevention programs aimed at gay and bisexual men." HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg said, "The Human Rights Campaign strongly condemns any abuse or misuse of funding, particularly when these life-saving funds are already scarce. We should not, however, let a divisive report distract us from the overwhelming need to provide a comprehensive response to HIV and AIDS that includes prevention, care, treatment [and] research." She added that it was "unfortunate" that the report singled out programs aimed at gay and bisexual men because the group continues to account for half of all new AIDS cases (HRC release, 2/14). The full report is available online.