Sunday, July 11, 2004

The Guardian
The US government came under scathing attack from senior members of the medical establishment yesterday for blocking scientists from attending the International Aids conference which opened in Bangkok.
The biennial conference, with 17,000 delegates, is more political rally than scientific meeting and bears huge significance for those involved in the fight against HIV/Aids.
The US government has sent only a fraction of its usual contingent of scientists, pleading cost - 50 instead of the 236 who attended the last event in Barcelona in 2002.
The Department of Health and Human Services, headed by the health secretary, Tommy Thompson, was yesterday accused of actively preventing certain US scientists and doctors who had a contribution to make from travelling to Bangkok.
Many suspect that behind the action lies a rift between the US and Aids activists who oppose America's approach to the global pandemic.
Joep Lange, president of the Sweden-based International Aids Society, which organises the conference, said it had been forced to retract papers that had been accepted for conference sessions after the US scientist authors had been refused permission to come. Many meetings, some to train developing world researchers, have had to be cancelled.
"I really think it is shameful that they restricted the US government participation, particularly when you think they are putting so much money into the fight and people in the field who have to do the job are directly prevented from coming here," said Dr Lange.

"It stymies the ability of scientists to discuss and learn from each other," said Dr DeAngelis. "It is wrong."

She pointed out that the trip would have been paid for by the American Medical Association, not the US government. "It is an incredible example of political pettiness. It is anti-intellectual and it is interfering with scientists and the scientific process and means American government-employed scientists are not allowed to be here to share their knowledge," she said.

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