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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
NIH Questions AIDS, Sex Attitudes Grants
Mark Sherman
October 28, 2003
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.