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Scientists Researching HIV/AIDS and Sexuality Targeted by Government

A list naming over 150 scientists that research HIV/AIDS and human sexuality has become the subject of controversy between Congress, the National Institutes for Health (NIH), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The list was apparently mistakenly sent to the NIH from a staff member for the House Energy and Commerce Committee when it requested a list of 10 studies that the committee wanted more information on, according to the Los Angeles Times. NIH employees have been calling the scientists on the list asking them to provide descriptions of the beneficial aspects of their projects, raising fears that the scientists on the list may lose their funding, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The so-called Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) claims responsibility for the list and the research that went into it, according to Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report.

However, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) alleged that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was involved in the creation of the list, even though HHS officials and the executive director of TVC are denying HHS involvement. Waxman sent a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson arguing that some information on this list is not publicly available on the NIH grants database, but would have been available on HHS computer systems. The letter also urges Thompson to “denounce this scientific McCarthyism” because it sends a message to scientists “that the Bush Administration is prepared to attack leading researchers and sacrifice integrity at NIH to further a narrow right-wing ideological agenda.” According to Kaiser, Waxman aides are fearful that these calls may discourage scientists from proposing similar projects in the future.

Waxman’s office issued a report in August accusing the Bush administration of distorting and ignoring scientific studies that goes against conservative viewpoints and appointing panel members to scientific boards based on ideology. A study by OMB Watch also released in August reveals that the Bush Administration has been targeting non-profits that criticize the government.

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Sources:

Associated Press 10/29/03; San Francisco Chronicle 10/28/03; Representative Waxman's letter to Thompson; Kaiser Daily News 10/28/03; LA Times 10/28/03