December 18, 2017
2 min read

ID organizations ‘deeply concerned’ over possible word ban in CDC budget documents

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Photo of Brenda Fitzgerald
Brenda Fitzgerald

The Infectious Diseases Society of America, HIV Medicine Association and Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society released a joint statement today addressing recent reports that claim the CDC may be banned from using the terms “science-based,” “evidence-based,” “transgender,” “diversity,” “entitlement,” “vulnerable” and “fetus” in federal budget documents.

The organizations said they are “deeply concerned” about the “unacceptable and disturbing” reports, and are urging elected officials to “prohibit any form of censorship that interferes with accurate communications by CDC, other Department of Health and Human Services agencies and other federal agencies.”

CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, denied the reports on social media yesterday and told Infectious Disease News in a statement that “there are no banned, prohibited or forbidden words at the CDC — period.”

“I want to emphasize to anyone who may believe otherwise that we continue to encourage open dialogue about all of the important public health work we do,” she said. “I understand that confusion arose from a staff-level discussion at a routine meeting about how to present CDC’s budget. It was never intended as overall guidance for how we describe and conduct CDC’s work. For more than 70 years, CDC has pledged to the American people that we will treat all persons with dignity, honesty and respect. We take this pledge as seriously today as we did when it was written.”

According to the IDSA, HIVMA and PIDS, censoring documents that request funding for public health initiatives would compromise the work of scientists and public health officials. Such censorship, they added, would impact the health of Americans and trust in the government.

“Suppression of language in budget documents suggests further intent — thwarting a federal agency from requesting funding for public health initiatives based on sound science, yet controversial in the political arena,” the organizations said in the statement.

IDSA, HIVMA and PIDS reflected on the significant influence that politics had on funding for HIV/AIDS when the epidemic emerged more than 3 decades ago.

“The federal government’s unwillingness to acknowledge the epidemic and to allocate resources allowed the HIV epidemic to expand further and faster,” the statement said. “These early, federal inactions were not based on science but rather grounded in ideology and politics. Timely intervention could have saved many thousands of lives.” – by Stephanie Viguers

Disclosure: Fitzgerald reports no relevant financial disclosures.