Federal funding for more than a dozen AIDS service organizations is being scrutinized by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) after members of these groups took part in a demonstration against Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson during his speech last month at the international AIDS conference in Barcelona, Spain, the Washington Post reported. Review of these groups, many of which provide services to AIDS patients through government contracts while acting as advocates for various causes, was launched at the request of 12 members of Congress, according to HHS officials.
The group of lawmakers, which includes Rep. Mark Edward Souder (R-IN), sent a letter to Thompson five days after the Barcelona conference asking that the agency account for all US funding that went to support the conference. The same day that the letter was written, a staff member for the House Government Reform subcommittee on criminal justice, drug policy and human resources, which Souder chairs, sent an email message to the HHS legislative affairs office requesting details on the current federal funding levels for the organizations that led the protest against Thompson, the Post reported.
The letter mainly attacked what these legislators viewed as a lack of a religious presence at the conference, specifically noting that the Vatican was “uninvited.” “The religious intolerance and outright disdaim expressed by conference organizers and many of the activists who attended should not be subsidized with US taxpayer dollars,” the letter reads. These charges were made despite the fact that the only people who were not invited to the conference were those actively advocating the view that HIV does not cause AIDS, conference co-chair Jordi Casabona told the Post.