Global Health Report Reportedly Blocked By Bush Administration

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Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) on Monday released two different drafts ofa 2006 surgeon general report on global health that reportedly waswithheld from the public by a Bush administration political appointee,the Los Angeles Times reports (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 7/31). Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona,who commissioned the report while serving in the position from 2002 to2006, at a July 10 House committee hearing testified that the reportwas suppressed. Carmona told lawmakers that as he attempted to releasethe report, he was "called in and again admonished ... via a seniorofficial," who said the report "will be a political document, or itwill not be released." HHS' Office of Global Health Affairshead William Steiger, who according to newspaper reports blocked thereport from being released, said he disagreed with Carmona's statementsregarding the report (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/30).

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Waxman on Monday released both Carmona's draft and the HHS outline of the report. According to the Times,the differences between the two versions have "added fuel to thecontroversy over whether the Bush administration has politicizedscience and medicine," as well as placed "political and ideologicalmessages ahead of scientific information." The Timesreports that the HHS outline included "praise" for "President Bush'sinitiative against AIDS in poor countries" and U.S. initiatives toimprove public health in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Carmona's reportincluded condoms as an effective way to prevent HIV transmission,"decried global pollution and violence against women."

HHSspokesperson Bill Hall said the report was not released because areview raised "strong concerns (from) multiple agencies." Waxman, chairof the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said that information from the HHS outline was inaccurate, according to the Times.For example, it highlighted microbicides "near final development" thatwomen could use to protect themselves from HIV. Waxman in a letter toHHS said that this information is misleading because no "microbicidehas been approved for reducing HIV infection." He added that an"international microbicide development organization predicts five toseven years until a product is available."

Carmona on Monday would not comment on the situation but said that he is willing to testify again before Congress if asked (Los Angeles Times, 7/31). Hall said that Steiger's outline was meant to serve as guidance for Carmona while he drafted the report (Lee, Washington Post, 7/31).
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