Taxpayers paid for AIDS-prevention projects that encouraged sexual activity in direct violation of federal guidelines and met the “legal definition of obscene material,” an inspector general’s report has concluded.
Workshops with names such as “Booty Call” and “Great Sex” were sponsored by the San Francisco Stop AIDS Project, which received nearly $700,000 in federal funding last year through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to a report by Janet Rehnquist, inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services.
The “Great Sex” workshop “appears to directly promote sexual activity, which is not consistent with CDC’s basic principles,” the IG’s report said.
The “Booty Call” workshop, which “discusses the taboos of anal eroticism,” does discuss “the harmful effects of promiscuous activity,” but also “appears to focus equally on, and possibly to promote, sexual activity,” Miss Rehnquist concluded.
The IG’s study of CDC-funded AIDS prevention programs was ordered by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson in response to complaints from members of Congress, including Rep. Mark Souder, Indiana Republican, and Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican.
“I’m very encouraged by Secretary Thompson’s prompt action on this,” Mr. Pitts said in a statement yesterday. “It shows that we have an administration that is accountable and responsible.”
CDC guidelines for HIV/AIDS prevention funding were first developed in 1986 and revised in 1992.
The guidelines prohibit the use of CDC funds for “education or information designed to promote or encourage, directly, homosexual or heterosexual sexual activity or intravenous substance abuse.”
CDC funding is also prohibited for materials that violate obscenity standards established by the Supreme Court’s 1973 Miller v. California decision.
San Francisco officials have contended that provocative advertisements and sex-themed workshops are necessary to attract homosexuals to AIDS prevention courses a suggestion that some AIDS activists find offensive.
“The materials are sexually explicit, meaning the only way to get the attention of a gay man in San Francisco is through sex instead of using intelligence to reach gay men,” said Michael Petrelis, a San Francisco activist.
Mr. Petrelis cited advertisements for workshops on the Stop AIDS Project’s Web site www.stopaids.org that use obscene language to describe anal sex.
One ad proclaims: “Whether you like taking it or giving it, this workshop is for you. How do our roles turn us on and keep us pumping?”
“That is what the American taxpayer is paying for with their money,” Mr. Petrelis said, noting that the CDC-funded efforts have failed to reduce rates of HIV infection in the San Francisco area.
Among other violations of federal policy, Miss Rehnquist found that the Stop AIDS Project had failed to submit workshop materials to a community review board and did not track federal funding of individual activities.
Overall, CDC funds accounted for 39 percent of the project’s budget in fiscal 2000.
In forwarding the IG’s report to members of Congress, Mr. Thompson said the CDC has already “taken preliminary remedial actions” in response to the findings and that he has requested Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Claude Allen to “conduct an examination of all Department-funded HIV/AIDS activities.”
The IG’s office will also “conduct a more comprehensive review” of AIDS-prevention activities, Mr. Thompson added.