AIDS activists descended on Washington in mid-February to lobby for more federal dollars to fight one of history's worst plagues. Before additional funds are committed to this disease, it's fair to ask whether a lot of the money already being spent is allocated wisely, or wasted on frivolous and outrageous things that don't enhance our knowledge and lead to a cure.
Citizens Against Government Waste has compiled a report (http://www.cagw.org/site/PageServer) revealing how millions of mostly federal dollars that should be going to disease prevention and cure are instead being squandered on highly questionable programs. The report notes that:
-- A $20,000 grant to the Twin State Women's Network (awarded through the Vermont Department of Public Health) was used for a weekend retreat featuring such seminars as "Toys 4 Us" and "Self Loving/Self Healing: Discussing the Role of Masturbation as a Tool of Healing." TSWN also received $1,500 for long-distance phone calls, $1,000 for books, including "The New Good Vibrations for Sex" manual, and $250 for videos, including "Fire in the Valley: A Guide to Masturbation for Women." Participants received welcome bags filled with mints and chocolate. Each guest room was equipped with welcome packets containing condoms, lubricants, candles, massage lotion and lip balm. 86 percent of TSWN funds come from government sources, including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
-- The CDC sends $1 million annually to Positive Force, a program for HIV-positive, gay and bisexual men in San Francisco. Among other things, Positive Force offers flirting classes.
-- A former bookkeeper for Central Florida AIDS Unified
Resources was ordered to pay restitution after spending $600,000 in federal Ryan White CARE Act money on tickets to Disney World, hotels and restaurants.
-- The New York Post reported last April that New York City was spending $180,000 a week on emergency housing for indigent HIV/AIDS patients. "That month, the city had reserved 20 rooms at the Sofitel Hotel in Midtown Manhattan at $329 apiece," the CAGW report states. "Advocates say the DASIS (Division of AIDS Services and Income Support) must use the expensive hotels because it has ruined its relationship with lower-cost hotels by not paying bills on time. New York City received $52.6 million in Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (a HUD program)
funding in fiscal 2001."
The federal government currently spends $13 billion a year on AIDS-related programs, far more than it spends on other diseases from which more people suffer. In 1996, the National Institutes of Health spent an average of $1,160 for every heart disease death, $4,700 for every cancer death, but an incredible $43,000 for every AIDS death, according to the National Institute of Medicine. It is the political clout of AIDS activists, along with the fear of opponents who cower at the label "homophobe" that accounts for this disparity in research funding. This is especially frustrating to cancer and heart disease patients, who see their diseases as mostly unrelated to behavioral choices.
Taxpayers have no obligation to fund AID Atlanta, Inc., "which received more than $3.5 million from the government in fiscal 2000," the CAGW reports. AID Atlanta programs include "Deeper Love: A Workshop for Gay and Bisexual Men of African Descent," focusing on dating, relationships and erotica. Among topics of discussion: "Dirty talk: what makes it good," "The Art of Latex" and "Safety vs. Trust." The group "also sponsors 'Slipping and Sliding' where men can explore their needs and desires and learn how to fulfill them," the CAGW found.
AIDS activists want more money for this? They shouldn't get it, at least until the misspending on programs that do little to prevent and nothing to cure the disease is stopped.