Many U.S. scientists whose research papers have been accepted for presentation at the XV International AIDS Conference, to be held in Thailand in July, will not be able to present their work because of restrictions by the Bush administration on how many government scientists can attend the event, Science reports. The Department of Health and Human Services will pay for only 50 Americans to attend the conference--20 scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 from the National Institutes of Health, and 10 administration officials. HHS spent $3.6 million to send 236 people to the 2002 conference in Spain. CDC spokeswoman Kathryn Harben says scientists will be selected to attend the conference based on "which [talks] are most important."
Bush administration officials say the decision to pare down the number of scientists attending the biannual conference was due to cost-cutting measures at HHS. But Science reports that a confidential e-mail from an HHS official sent in March says the decision was made "as a result of the treatment [HHS secretary Tommy Thompson] received in Barcelona and HHS opinion that this meeting is of questionable scientific value." Thompson was heckled during a speech at the Barcelona conference by about 40 activists angry at U.S. funding levels of international AIDS programs. An HHS spokesman declined to comment on the e-mail, Science reports.