Gerberding’s Appointment to Head CDC Criticized by AIDS Activists, Conservative Groups
The appointment of infectious disease expert Julie Gerberding to head the CDC has drawn criticism from AIDS activists, who are concerned that she will support the Bush administration's abstinence-only approach to HIV prevention, as well as from conservatives, who fear she will not lend enough support to such programs, the Washington Blade reports. Gerberding, who first gained recognition as a researcher at the University of California-San Francisco before founding a center to treat low-income, urban people with HIV, said on July 3 at the press conference announcing her appointment that her "central goal [as head of the CDC] is to substantially reduce and prevent HIV infections worldwide." To do so, she said that she will "work closely" with HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson to "be sure CDC fully embraces (his) priorities and those of President Bush." Gerberding also stated, "Abstinence and monogamy are the first line of defense against HIV/AIDS," adding that she intends to "lean on abstinence programs," such as one used in Uganda to promote abstinence and marital fidelity. Barry Hutchinson, a San Francisco-based AIDS activist, said that such a statement "should be a red flag to gays," adding, "Marital monogamy is not an option for gay people. Saying that points to inequalities in our system, and if we follow that scenario, we can't get married, so we have to forego sex. That's just unrealistic."
Some conservative groups are concerned that by promoting a new director from within the CDC, the Bush administration has signalled that it is "satisfied" with the agency's current activities, including "safe sex programs" that critics say "advocate immoral conduct," the Blade reports. Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America, characterized the CDC as a "rogue agency" that has acted as a "menace to public health" over the past few years. "Gerberding is the wrong doctor for a sick agency, credentialing safe sex programs as 'programs that work' on the basis of no evidence, thereby enabling the opponents of abstinence education to peddle to school systems yet another 'try it you'll like it' sex education program," she said (Fleming, Washington Blade, 7/12).