- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2002

Federal AIDS programs are an "epidemic of waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement," according to a watchdog group that says the time to "eliminate or redirect" the money for some of these programs is long overdue.

"In the early years of AIDS, activists were justified in asking for money for the mysterious epidemic that everyone was afraid of and no one knew how to avoid or treat," says the new Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW)report, "AIDS Programs: An Epidemic of Waste," released yesterday at a news conference at the National Press Club.

"But due to increased knowledge and improved treatment, dire predictions that have not come true" and the "waste and abuse in AIDS programs," Congress should phase out funding for some AIDS initiatives and shift the dollars to "more efficient uses," the report concludes.

"Federal AIDS funding, which includes money for research, treatment and housing, totals $13 billion for fiscal 2003. There might be $1 billion out of that $13 billion that is not being used effectively. We consider that a very conservative estimate," Tom Schatz, CAGW president, said in an interview.

"The object of the report is to move money from areas where it's not being used effectively to areas it would be effective," he added.

Mr. Schatz said ineffective programs include federally funded AIDS-prevention seminars and workshops that encourage sexual activity in direct violation of federal guidelines. "You are certainly not improving someone's health when you have a seminar on sadomasochism or fetishism," he said yesterday.

The report cites a seminar to be held Feb. 28 by the Stop AIDS Project of San Francisco, titled "Guywatch." An advertisement for the seminar, geared toward male homosexuals, reads in part: "What tricks do you want to share to make your man tremble with delight?"

Similar federally funded seminars were reported in November by The Washington Times. An examination by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services determined the workshops promoted sexual activity and were inconsistent with the principles of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which funded them.

The CAGW report raises questions about a grant of more than $900,000 the CDC recently awarded the San Francisco Department of Public Health to study the "efficacy of condom-use skills-building workshops." HIV and AIDS social and prevention programs have "long been cash cows for politically correct non-profit firms and government bureaucracies," the report says.

Instead of "pornographic" prevention programs and "duplicative and outmoded social programs for AIDS patients," CAGW believes the government should be spending more for research on an AIDS vaccine, providing more support for international AIDS programs and ensuring that all Americans with the disease regardless of their income get the drugs they need.

"Right now 1,000 Americans are on a waiting list for [AIDS] drugs," which can cost about $30,000 a year, said Mr. Schatz.

The report points out that in 1998, AIDS ranked 17th among the leading causes of death for Americans. It was behind, among others, heart disease, cancer, emphysema and asthma, pneumonia and influenza, diabetes, suicide, Alzheimer's disease, homicide and hypertension.

"Despite this, AIDS receives more funding than any other disease. In 1996, NIH spent 43 times more on AIDS than it did on heart disease (the nation's No. 1 disease killer) and nine times more than it spent on all cancers," which are No. 2, said the CAGW report by Kerrie Rezac.

Examples of fraud cited in the CAGW report included a Dallas health clinic that spent more than $60,000 in grant money awarded under the Ryan White CARE Act for calls to psychic hot lines and shopping sprees for staffers to Nieman Marcus.

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