Scientific Knowledge on HIV/AIDS Prevention Distorted

Published Jul 11, 2008 Updated Feb 18, 2005

NOTE: The following is one of a series of case studies produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists' Scientific Integrity Program between 2004 and 2010 to document the abuses highlighted in our 2004 report, Scientific Integrity in Policy Making.


At the instigation of higher-ups in the George W. Bush administration, fact-based information on the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) website has been altered to raise scientifically questionable doubt about the efficacy of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

A fact sheet on the CDC website that included information on proper condom use, the effectiveness of different types of condoms, and studies showing that condom education does not promote sexual activity was replaced in October 2002 with a document that emphasizes condom failure rates and the effectiveness of abstinence.1 When a source inside the CDC questioned the actions, she was told that the changes were directed by Bush administration officials at the Department of Health and Human Services.2

1. A. Clymer, “U.S. Revises Sex Information, and a Fight Goes On,” New York Times, December 27, 2002. A comparison of the two versions of the CDC website about condoms can be seen online. The original website, CDC, Condoms and Their Use in Preventing HIV Infection and Other STDS (September 1999) is available at http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov/Documents/20040817143928-82727.pdf . The current CDC fact sheet, CDC; Male Latex Condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (October 2003) is available at www.cdc.gov/nchstp/od/latex.htm.
2. Report author interview with CDC staffer, name withheld on request, November 2003.

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