University of Wisconsin-Madison Applies for NIH Grant to Fund Human Sexuality Doctorate Program; Lawmakers Object to Request
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has applied to the NIH for a $200,000 federal grant to create a doctoral program in human sexuality research, the Wisconsin State Journal reports. Students enrolling in the multi-year program would enter a psychology or sociology graduate program at either UW-Madison or the University of Chicago. The students would then specialize in a certain aspect of sexuality, such as HIV prevention or pregnancy. Organizers of the program said that it would be unique in the country because it aims to bring "more science into the realm of public policy" on sexual issues. "Scientists don't have enough impact on decisions being made by bureaucrats and politicians," John DeLamater, UW-Madison sociology professor and director of the program, said. DeLamater cited as an example the current debate surrounding abstinence-only sex education, a curriculum that he says scientists "absolutely know doesn't work" (Rivedal, Wisconsin State Journal, 10/9).
Lawmakers Object to Allocating Funding for Program
Thirty members of Congress have written a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson urging NIH to not allocate funding to the universities' human sexuality program, stating that the program would not be "fair and balanced" because it would not discuss abstinence-only sex education. Citing DeLamater's statements on abstinence education, the lawmakers say that they are "uneasy" supporting a program headed by a person with "such personal bias." The letter states that research has shown that abstinence programs are effective and that abstinence education has prompted both a delay in the onset of sexual activity and a decline in the number of abortions among young people. The lawmakers urge HHS to instead increase funding for research to "better understand the value of abstinence-only education in terms of prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, [unintended] pregnancies and other negative health consequences that result from becoming sexually active at a young age." Signatories of the letter include Reps. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), Jim Ryun (R-Kan.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Melissa Hart (R-Pa.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) (Letter text, 10/16).