I am sitting at my desk at work. I have one 79 page protocol sitting in front of me for an anti-HIV drug that will be used for people in whom all other therapies have failed. This is, unfortunately, a lot of people.
I am sitting at my desk at work. My little e-mail icon lights up. I love when my icon lights up. It means someone is thinking of me. Whatever. Anyway, I open the email. It is a link to a Washington Post article. I may be sick all over my 79 page protocol.
Here’s the gist of things. Yesterday was the beginning of the National STD Prevention Conference sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Today at 3 p.m. EST there was to be a panel entitled "Are Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs a Threat to Public Health?" It included three panelists who were going to be discussing their peer-reviewed scientific studies on how abstinence-only programs are not working.
But then…Congressman Mark Souder (R-Ind) decided that the panel was not balanced. Now, I don’t know about y’all but I have been to a few scientific conferences over the years. Nothing requires a panel to be "balanced." As long as the work meets scientific standards and is peer-reviewed and someone will agree to moderate it and the conference organizers choose to include it in the program, well, we have ourselves a session. Balanced is not part of the equation. If you don’t agree, come protest. Challenge the researchers on their scientific methods. Do your own goddamn study and present the findings next year.
But no. Mr. Souder decided that the panel needed to be changed to include abstinence only advocates. Never mind that their work had not been subject to rigorous peer review. No matter that they hadn’t even registered for the conference. They were in. And one of the original panelists was out. AND the title of the panel was changed to be "Public Health Strategies of Abstinence Programs for Youth," AND the original moderator is no longer moderating!
Here's who was in. One Dr. Patricia Sulak, founder of Worth the Wait (which includes a fun game in the 8th grade curriculum of "STD, STD who's got the STD" and one Dr. Eric Walsh whose bio for the "Disturbing Voices HIV/AIDS Conference (!)" includes the statement "Dr. Walsh seeks to serve the Lord through medical missions and the preaching of the Gospel in all the world."
This is ridiculous. The Republicans and other right-wing fanatics are full of so much chutzpah that they are actually willing to interfere in how science is presented. Of course, since Bush has been in office, granting by the National Institutes of Health has changed significantly. And forget about grants involving rectal microbicides (otherwise known as promotion of butt sex). Ain’t gonna happen.
And frankly, as I’m sitting at my desk, working to try to do something good, something to help someone, some high school kid that took a chastity pledge is having sex for the very first time and doesn’t know that condoms are available for free down the block at Planned Parenthood.
Write to Congressman Souder. Please.
Some facts from Slate Magazine and the Washington Post