Policy & Politics

Many U.S. Scientists Whose Papers Accepted for International AIDS Conference Cannot Attend

April 27, 2004

This article is part of The Body PRO's archive. Because it contains information that may no longer be accurate, this article should only be considered a historical document.

Many U.S. scientists whose papers have been accepted for presentation at the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, in July will not be allowed to attend because of restrictions on the number of government attendees, Science reports (Couzin, Science, 4/23). HHS last month announced that it plans to spend $500,000 to send 50 people to the conference, down from the $3.6 million it spent to send 236 people to the 2002 conference in Barcelona, Spain (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/14). Half of the $500,000 will be spent on sending about 80 African scientists to the conference. The remaining money will be spent to send 20 scientists each from NIH and CDC and 10 HHS staff members. Because HHS prohibits scientists from presenting their work if their travel is not funded by the government, many scientists whose papers already have been accepted for presentation at the conference will not be able to attend and present their work. CDC spokesperson Kathryn Harben said that the agency would select scientists based on "which (talks) are most important." NIH spokesperson Donald Ralbovsky declined to comment on how the agency would select its 20 attendees, Science reports. According to a confidential e-mail sent in March by NIH Office of AIDS Research Director Jack Whitescarver, HHS official William Steiger said that the decision to limit the number of government attendees "was as a result of the treatment the secretary received in Barcelona and HHS opinion that this meeting is of questionable scientific value" (Science, 4/23). About 40 protesters climbed onstage and drowned out HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson during his speech at the Barcelona conference (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/9/02). HHS spokesperson Bill Pierce declined to comment on the memo, according to Science (Science, 4/23).

Webcasts and other coverage of the XV International AIDS Conference will be available online at will serve as the conference's official webcaster.

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