Officials at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are outraged over a cost-cutting decision by Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson to allow only 50 government scientists to attend the XV International AIDS Conference scheduled for July in Thailand, Science reports.
More than 230 health officials were sent to the 2002 conference in Spain at a cost of about $3.6 million. HHS officials deemed that number "excessive," according to department spokesman Bill Pierce. Scientists participating as speakers or presenting studies and papers at the conference will be given preference in choosing which researchers will attend the event; other NIH and CDC staff members can access information presented at the conference through scientific journals, Pierce said.
However, HHS official Bill Steiger reportedly told AIDS activists that the real reason Thompson cut the number of people who will be sent to the conference is because he was heckled during a talk he gave regarding U.S. international AIDS policies at the 2002 event, according to Science. Pierce dismissed that claim, calling it "completely incorrect."