say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
allowed right-wing congressman Mark Souder, an Indiana
Republican, to unfairly influence the makeup of a
sexually transmitted disease panel to include two
abstinence supporters, The Philadelphia
Inquirer reports. Souder reportedly questioned the
balance of the panel, which was set up to discuss the
shortcomings of abstinence-only education programs for
young people and met Tuesday in at the National STD
Prevention Conference in Jacksonville, Fla.
complaints, which labeled the discussion as
"anti-abstinence," led to the CDC
removing from the panel a Penn State University
student who planned to talk about how abstinence
programs did not lower STD rates. The CDC replaced that
speaker with two abstinence supporters, Patricia
Sulak of the Worth the Wait Program and California
physician Eric Walsh. Neither of the new panelists went
through the peer-review process required of other panel
members. Sulak and Walsh also attended the panel
meeting with financial support by the Department of
Health and Human Services, while other panel members told
the Inquirer they had been required to pay
their own way to the event.
complaint also lead to a change in the title of the panel.
Conference organizers initially dubbed the panel "Are
Abstinence-Only Until Marriage Programs a Threat to
Public Health?" The panel was renamed
"Public Health Strategies of Abstinence Programs for
organizers say this is the first time a single lawmaker has
been able to interfere so easily with the content of a
federally backed scientific conference. "At the CDC
they're beside themselves," Jonathan Zenilman,
president of the American Sexually Transmitted
Diseases Association, told the Inquirer. "These
people aren't scientists; they haven't written
anything. The only reason they're here is because of
political pressure from the Administration."
previously complained about Republican interference in
scientific meetings. Last year, officials with the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
stripped the inclusion of the words
"gay," "lesbian," and
"bisexual" from a program for a conference on
suicide prevention. That program also was instructed to add
a session on faith-based suicide prevention,
conference organizers say.
director of the CDC's STD program, declined repeated
interview requests from the Inquirer. (The
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