Political Pressure From Conservative Politicians, Advocacy Groups Weakens CDC HIV/AIDS Prevention Programs, Staff Says
Political pressure from conservative politicians and advocacy groups is weakening the CDC's HIV/AIDS prevention programs, according to staff members and groups that receive funding from the agency, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Recently, information on AIDS prevention was removed from the agency's Web site and groups that use CDC funding for AIDS education contend they are being audited because of a political climate that is "hostile" to comprehensive sex education. In November, for example, a committee that advises the CDC on HIV prevention was merged with a panel that examines AIDS issues for the Health Resources and Services Administration, effectively "dilut[ing]" the CDC committee's power, according to critics. Also, AIDS advocacy organizations are protesting that the CDC has invited groups that support abstinence-only education programs to a "prevention summit" scheduled for December. "We are concerned about the credibility that abstinence-only programs are getting," Martin Algarze of Gay Men's Health Crisis said.
Audits Raise Suspicion
The Journal-Constitution reports that in September, 24 Republican lawmakers asked HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson to audit three not-for-profit groups that develop sex-education materials. The Stop AIDS Project of San Francisco has had its safe-sex workshop materials audited twice in 12 months, once by the CDC and once by the HHS inspector general's office. Some CDC staffers privately predict that such political pressure will intensify when Republicans assume control of Congress in January. However, officials with HHS and the CDC say there is no "undue political or ideological pressure." Dr. Harold Jaffe, director of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, said that "at least some of" the audits are part of a scheduled CDC review and that both "very conservative" and "very liberal" groups will be included in the prevention summit scheduled for next month (McKenna, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/23).