AIDS Group's Graphic Tactics Scrutinized; Federal Team Questions Staff
August 13, 2002
A four-person CDC team spent four hours Monday in meetings with employees of San Francisco's Stop AIDS Project (SAP) to determine whether its programs comply with federal obscenity standards. The visit came after conservative members of Congress raised questions about some of SAP's workshops, which have included "Great Sex," "Sex Toys for Leather Boys" and "A Walk on the Wildside."
In a July 30 letter to new CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding, who ordered the site visit, Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) asked, "Under your leadership, will CDC continue its financial support to [SAP] or other organizations that have violated federal laws or misused federal funds?"
CDC guidelines require federally funded AIDS prevention programs to neither encourage sexual activity nor be considered obscene by community standards. SAP received $686,000, or 38 percent of its $1.8 million budget, in federal funds for 2000.
"The fact of the matter is that gay and bisexual men are getting HIV from insertive anal intercourse with people who are HIV-positive," said Steven Tierney, head of HIV prevention at the city Department of Public Health. "It'd be nice if we could do AIDS 101 in a pristine setting and talk epidemiology, but to reach the folks who are getting infected, we have to talk about sex and what they're doing."
The CDC investigators said little as they emerged from SAP's offices Monday, but they described its employees as "very responsive." CDC officials were expected today to meet with DPH officials to determine whether SAP's workshop materials had been given proper approval by a local review panel. Tierney predicted the materials would pass muster. Given political realities, he said, the CDC had no choice but to respond to complaints, which he said were part of "a campaign to bog down the prevention process with constant inquiries."
SAP spokesperson Shana Krochmal said some changes had been implemented since the federal inquiries began last year. For example, SAP has agreed to account more accurately for employee time spent doing federally funded work. "We've been continually funded by the CDC for 10 years," Krochmal said. "We have any number of evaluating mechanisms to prove our workshop and outreach interventions help prevent the spread of AIDS."
San Francisco Chronicle
08.13.02; Christopher Heredia
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.