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Earlier this week, CNS News released a story that revealed the NIH granted $3 million to the University of California, San Diego to, "study the context and epidemiology of HIV, STIs and associated risk behaviors among high risk female sex workers (FSWs) and their non-commercial male partners in two Mexico-US border cities."
The study first began receiving federal grants in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. An article posted to the University's website in 2009 explained the following:
"Targeted intervention among male clients is necessary to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections -- intervention that doesn't solely place the onus on female sex workers," said lead author Thomas L. Patterson of UC San Diego's Department of Psychiatry and the Veterans Administration Health Care System, San Diego.
Tijuana, located in Baja California, directly across the border from San Diego, has a thriving sex industry and is a popular destination for U.S. and foreign sex tourists. While the city's health service does license female sex workers, on condition that they are regularly tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STIs), only about half of them indeed are licensed. In addition, Baja California has the second highest cumulative AIDS incidence of any Mexican state and, in 2006, the HIV prevalence among female sex workers in Tijuana was 6 percent. It has been estimated that as many as one in 112 persons aged 15-49 living in Tijuana is HIV-infected.
According to the NIH website, the study would include recruitment of one hundred Mexican prostitutes and their partners. The eventual goal of the project is to, "develop behavioral interventions to improve the clients' knowledge of the risk of HIV." "Intensified efforts to 'test and treat' should reach out to this high-risk group in ways that are culturally sensitive, recognizing that some men fail to realize that sexual health is a shared responsibility," the University's site goes on to say.
Sexual health is an important topic. Erradicating AIDS and HIV is a noble goal. But why are we footing the bill for a culturally sensitive intervention program for Mexican prostitutes?
In case you haven't noticed, Americans are still struggling to find jobs and put food on the table and we're paying for this? Yet the same school of thought that would defend spending $3 million for this type of academic research bemoaned the miniscual and intentionally disagreeable sequester cuts.
It's time our elected officials took a serious look at how the academy burns through millions upon millions of dollars on research projects like this one, particularly in a time when we're teetering on the brink of insolvency and even the people's house, the White House is closed for tours.