Scientific Decisions, Including HIV/AIDS Policies, ‘Subjected to Political Tests’ by Bush Administration, Opinion Piece Says
The scientific community -- both in the United States and abroad -- has "expressed concern" over the fact that scientific decisions, including those concerning HIV/AIDS policies, are "subjected to political tests" by the Bush administration, David Baltimore, president of the California Institute of Technology, writes in a Science opinion piece. The administration's "pattern of behavior ... is becoming clear," including its "abandon[ment]" of scientific rationale in favor of political policies influenced by "religious conservatism or economically based political caution," Baltimore says. Current U.S. HIV/AIDS policy is a "case in point," Baltimore says, adding that "[s]topping the spread [of HIV/AIDS] should be the highest international priority," because the disease is spreading at an "alarming rate" in Africa and Asia. However, the Bush administration has prioritized abstinence as the most effective method of HIV prevention and has given "scant recognition to the protective value of condom use," despite the fact that "under most circumstances the only safe and effective protection is condoms," Baltimore says. Although "complaints" led CDC to include a "positive statement" about the effectiveness of condoms in an online fact sheet and USAID now promotes condom use, the administration does not promote widespread use of condoms in HIV prevention, according to Baltimore. Although complaints from the Union of Concerned Scientists and other individuals in the field have resulted in a "new posture" in the administration that is more "honest" about scientific facts, the implications of policy decisions are "still being ignored," Baltimore writes, concluding, "Our goal now should be to have the policies track the science" (Baltimore, Science, 9/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.