All CDC-Funded HIV/AIDS Programs Currently Under Bush Administration Review, Fox News Reports
All HIV/AIDS programs that receive funding from the CDC are currently under review by the Bush administration, according to officials with the HHS Office of Inspector General, Fox News reports. The CDC allocated $144 million in funding for HIV/AIDS-related programs in 2002, but the funding recently has come under scrutiny after an inspector general report found that one organization was using its grant to sponsor programs that were deemed inappropriate and sexually explicit (Vlahos, Fox News, 7/30). A report by the HHS inspector general found in November that the San Francisco-based Stop AIDS Project used some of its $700,000 federal grant to provide HIV prevention workshops that encouraged sexual activity and met the "legal definition of obscene material." The Labor-HHS appropriations bill (HR 3061) for fiscal year 2002 includes a provision allowing the HHS inspector general to conduct an audit of all federally funded HIV/AIDS prevention programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/4).
Critics of the CDC's funding for HIV/AIDS programs say that the inspector general's report shows that the audit is "long overdue" because the CDC is "in dire need of a wake-up call" on such issues as HIV/AIDS and condom use, according to Fox News. "It seems that the CDC has been influenced by various political agendas instead of a strict political mandate," Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) said. But others said that although a "healthy monitoring of taxpayer funding is wise," the agency is "suffocating under strict oversight," Fox News reports. Willard Cates, president of Family Health International and a former CDC official, said that the Bush administration seems to be implementing "a more restrictive and sort of micromanaging oversight" over the agency and is ordering the CDC to "speak in 'one voice' with the administration." The CDC and HHS would not comment on the audits or on critics' allegations of "tension" between the CDC and the Bush administration, Fox News reports (Fox News, 7/30).
Representatives Write Letter to CDC Director
Weldon and Reps. David Souder (R-Ind.) and Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) yesterday sent a letter to CDC Director Julie Gerberding asking her to explain how she believes the agency should approach HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts. The letter states that "despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars" annually on HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, the CDC has not been able to reduce the annual U.S. HIV incidence rate for more than a decade. "Such indicators demand a new approach to combating the spread of this deadly disease," Weldon, Souder and Pitts write. They ask Gerberding to detail how her approach to HIV prevention efforts will differ from previous techniques. They add that the CDC should adopt a "more aggressive approach" to HIV testing and partner notification, with one option being to encourage doctors to include HIV testing in regular physical examinations, in emergency room settings with "high HIV prevalence" and in sexually transmitted disease treatment clinics. In addition, the authors say that pregnant women and infants should be tested for HIV to "ensure no baby is left to slip through the cracks and allowed to become needlessly infected." They write that HIV prevention education has not deterred HIV infection, meaning that "the education included in HIV counseling is therefore either inadequate at best or counterproductive at worst." The representatives ask Gerberding how she would change HIV testing and counseling programs to better "address HIV risk behaviors" (Weldon et al., Gerberding letter text, 7/30).