Lawmakers back HHS decision to send fewer people to International AIDS Conference

Two dozen Republican members of Congress have written to Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson to support his decision to curtail federal funds used to send U.S. scientists to the International AIDS Conference in July in Thailand, The Washington Times reports. HHS spent $3.6 million to send 236 people to the 2002 conference in Barcelona but is planning on spending just $500,000 to send 50 people to this year's Bangkok conference. "We applaud you for your leadership in working to scale back the largess of the federal involvement at these international conferences," the letter said. However, "spending a half million dollars to send 50 federal employees to a conference--an average of $10,000 per employee--still seems like an enormous expense." The lawmakers requested an itemized list of expenditures related to the conference. Thompson says the decision to send fewer government scientists to the conference is part of cost-cutting measures at HHS. But some AIDS activists believe the reduction in the U.S. contingent is due to the fact that Thompson was booed and heckled while speaking at the 2002 conference.

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