For the next five minutes, turn to the person sitting next to you. If you’re alone, don’t worry, you can do this exercise too; it’ll just feel a little awkward. Now, in as much detail as you can, describe what you did last weekend without using the words “I’, “we” or any words that contain the letter E.
Last week, the New York Times reported that scientists studying HIV/AIDS were warned by workers at the National Institute of Health not to mention the words “gay,” “transgender,” “sex worker” or “anal sex” in any of their grant proposals. Anonymous sources, both scientists and workers at the NIH, claim that officials target proposals with these words for closer scrutiny, which may lead to a denial of funds.
One of the UC’s very own research scientists states that an NIH project officer suggested the scientist to cleanse his proposal of words like gay and transgender. The kicker though, is one of his studies deals specifically with gay men and HIV testing.
Now, if researchers want to avoid the fear of having their grant proposals rejected on account of semantics, they have to use euphemisms and fuzzy language in order to avoid detection. The words “gay” or “homosexual” could be replaced with “man who enjoys the company of other men but not strictly in a platonic manner.” Sex workers could now be referred to as “men and women who receive money for naked fun.” Transgender? “Declined to state.” Anal sex? “Amateur rectal examination.” Needle exchange? “Junior phlebotomist program.”
The government’s skittishness to fund important medical research that affects populations at high risk for HIV/AIDS is understandable. The information gained from such work would benefit homosexuals, drug users, low-income individuals, minorities and sex workers – an odd assortment of people the current administration doesn’t like to talk about, much less think about.
Take for example the recent shift in HIV/AIDS policy toward funding AIDS prevention groups. Federal health officials are looking to shuffle around $90 million, giving priority funding to organizations concerned with counseling and testing individuals already infected with HIV. While the government remains quiet on the issue, there’s a good chance that organizations centered on safe sex education and prevention for at-risk individuals won’t see so much as a dime. We can expect the final plans in a few weeks and the changes will take affect in July of next year.
Opponents argue that this is just a way for the Bush administration to romance the right wing. The good ol’ boys don’t like giving money to organizations that realize people – and yes, even teenagers – have sex, regardless of whether or not they’re married.
It leads me to believe that right-wingers don’t fornicate at all but spore instead.
While it’s important to offer counseling services and testing for those infected with HIV/AIDS, to focus specifically on that sounds a lot like a quarantine. Lets not worry about the spread of the virus, folks, and lets just treat the boys and girls who contract a disease with a 100 percent mortality rate.
Compassion at its best.
The most disturbing thing of all, however, is this growing trend of euphemism and quiet talk – scientists censoring themselves out of fear and death to safe-sex education by slow monetary bleeding. It’s an easy way to contain and manage all the nasty unspeakables the right wing and the Bush administration dread so much; it must delight them to no end.
When you can’t talk about things, you can’t find new solutions or new systems, but I get the feeling we’re all supposed to abstain from free thought as much as we’re supposed to abstain from sex.
Steven Ruszczycky is the Daily Nexus opinion editor.