- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 8, 2001

Shirtless men cuddle on billboards, ads promote "toys for solo and partner sex," and a drag queen stars in a television commercial. Who pays for it? The American taxpayer, as part of federal AIDS prevention programs.
Funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these programs are drawing criticism from members of Congress who call them "inappropriate," especially at a time when they say the CDC should be focused on combating bioterrorism.
"[W]e have grown increasingly concerned about some of the activities that the CDC is funding and promoting activities that are highly controversial in nature, and could be better used for our War on Terrorism," three Republican congressmen wrote in a letter to Tommy G. Thompson, secretary of health and human services.
The congressmen also criticized the CDC for promoting the Playboy Foundation and a pro-choice organization on its Internet database.
"You know, in a time of national crisis, our public health experts should be using our tax dollars for programs that benefit all Americans," said Rep. Joseph R. Pitts of Pennsylvania, who signed the letter along with fellow Republican Reps. John Shadegg of Arizona and Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey.
"The CDC's number one mandate right now is fighting bioterrorism," Mr. Pitts said in a statement. "Instead, we find out that our money is being used for promoting teen abortion and expanding pornography. To put it mildly, this is an outrage."
Among the federally funded "inappropriate activities" cited:
In San Francisco, AIDS groups used CDC grants to sponsor a "world of toys" workshop to teach homosexuals "how to choose, use and care for toys for solo and partner sex."
In St. Louis, a $64,000 federal grant paid for a billboard campaign that depicted bare-chested men embracing. The billboards aimed at encouraging black people to get tested for the AIDS virus were taken down in September by order of Mayor Francis Slay, who said they "would offend families, people with children, a whole host of people."
In San Francisco, KGO-TV rejected public service announcements part of a $350,000 campaign funded by the CDC featuring "spokesmodels" with the AIDS virus, including one "transgender with breasts." Promoters of the "HIV Stops With Me" campaign wanted the ads to air during daytime talk shows but, according to the campaign's producer, KGO-TV management worried that young children might be confused by the ads.
The congressmen also complained to Mr. Thompson that "the CDC has used its resources to promote and advertise conferences and organizations that have little to do with public health."
The congressmen cited listings on the CDC's National Prevention Information Network's Funding Database for the General Service Foundation "dedicated to improving access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion, for women and adolescents" and for the Playboy Foundation, which "seeks to foster social change" by "fostering open communication about human sexuality."
CDC spokesman Jessica Frickey said yesterday she could not comment on the complaints because the CDC had not yet received a copy of their letter. Officials at Mr. Thompson's office did not return calls seeking comment.
The CDC's funding of such AIDS prevention efforts has angered some AIDS activists. "The tragic consequences are that people die when they don't get their vital medical services," Wayne Turner, spokesman for the activist group ACT UP, told the Associated Press in September.
Peter LaBarbera, senior policy analyst for the Culture and Family Institute, a conservative Washington think tank affiliated with Concerned Women for America, said the programs reflect "the culture of the CDC." After eight years of the Clinton administration, the CDC has become "almost a tool of the gay lobby," he said, citing public statements by CDC officials.
"Many at CDC feel strongly that homophobia is an insult to human dignity," Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, deputy director of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, said in September.
Speaking in Dallas to the annual convention of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, Dr. Valdiserri blamed "internalized homophobia" for homosexual men having "a large number of different sexual partners." He said rising rates of HIV infection among young homosexuals on "the overall sense of hopelessness that is spawned by homophobia."
Yet funding for AIDS prevention is "untouchable," Mr. LaBarbera says, noting that Republicans have promised to increase funding for such programs. "It's how Republicans show they're compassionate."


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