Associated Press (10.28.03) - Tuesday, October 28, 2003
In response to complaints from the conservative Traditional
Values Coalition, the National Institutes of Health is
telephoning 157 researchers who were awarded grants for
projects on AIDS and sexual practices. The phone calls are
"sending a dangerous message" that research is being subverted
by an ideological agenda, said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).
But NIH spokesperson John Burklow said the agency was simply
responding to a request from Republican lawmakers who were
given a list of research grants. The projects' topics include
teen sexual activity, sex and drug use among truckers, and
STDs among Mexican immigrants. The calls, Burklow said, were
not intended to threaten the researchers' funding but rather
to inform them that their names were on a list being
circulated in Washington. Officials were trying to put the
research into the context of NIH's "scientific mission,"
Burklow said. TVC Executive Director Andrea Lafferty called
the grants a "total waste of taxpayer dollars."
"We know for a fact that millions and millions of dollars have
been flushed down the toilet over years on this HIV, AIDS scam
and sham. We know what it takes to prevent getting this
disease. It takes not engaging in risky sexual behaviors,"
said Lafferty, who brought her concerns to Rep. Billy Tauzin
(R-La.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Ken
Johnson, Tauzin's spokesperson, said the committee is not
investigating individual grants but is "looking broadly at the
overall grant management program."
Committee member Waxman, who has previously criticized the
Bush administration for interfering with science, called the
list a "hit list" and questioned whether federal agencies
helped compile it. NIH is part of the Department of Health and
Human Services; in a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson,
Waxman said NIH officials could have read the grant
applications if all they sought was information. HHS officials
denied any role in compiling the list; they said all the
information is available through two databases.