CDC Deems Appropriate ‘Controversial’ Content of Federally Funded Stop AIDS Project Programs
Federal health officials have deemed appropriate "controversial" workshops that were conducted by the San Francisco Stop AIDS Project, which had been investigated for promoting materials that are "potentially obscene" and appeared to "promote sexual activity" in violation of federal law, the Los Angeles Times reports. CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding wrote in a letter yesterday that agency review teams found that "the design and delivery of Stop AIDS prevention activities was based on current accepted behavioral science theories in the area of health promotion." The investigation into the workshops -- which include such events as "intimacy games to help you keep sex safe and hot" -- was prompted in August 2001 when Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) asked HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson to look into how the programs were using federal money (Malnic, Los Angeles Times, 2/14). That request prompted a November 2001 report by HHS Inspector General Janet Rehnquist, saying that the group had used nearly $700,000 in federal funds in 2000 for workshops that were "too sexy" and provided HIV prevention workshops that encouraged sexual activity and met the "legal definition of obscene material." CDC guidelines for HIV prevention programs state that the programs cannot promote sexual activity or injection drug use and must meet the obscenity standards set forth in the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Case Miller v. California. The report singled out the Stop AIDS Project programs "Booty Call" and "Great Sex" as examples of material that was obscene or encouraged sexual activity (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/19/01). After that report, HHS Deputy Secretary Claude Allen set up a panel to look at Stop AIDS, as well as other federally subsidized AIDS prevention programs, the Times reports. After analyzing Stop AIDS by community standards, the panel concluded in its report that "the potential for preventing HIV infection in San Francisco far outweighed any possible obscenity." Darlene Weide, executive director of Stop AIDS, said, "There is nothing obscene in the work we do or in talking about the reality of gay men's lives. What is obscene is that sound prevention techniques that we know work in the real world are constantly on trial" (Los Angeles Times, 2/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.