AIDS STUDY: L.A. Times Op-Ed Defends Kerndt
In an op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times, Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, director of the Center For HIV Identification, Prevention & Treatment Services, laments the county's potential loss of a federal grant to study HIV due to city officials' emphasis on "politics over leadership and health care." Last year, Los Angeles County's chief epidemiologist, Dr. Peter Kerndt, won a National Institutes of Health research grant to identify adults at high risk for HIV. The study would place participants in "state-of-the-art HIV prevention programs" and allow them to "choose to be part of future HIV interventions, including vaccine trials." The editorial notes that initiatives of this kind are a "top item on President Clinton's HIV agenda and one for which $40 million has been committed." Local officials, however, started a fire when they compared the HIV study to the now-famous Tuskegee, MS, study of end-stage syphilis in a low-income African American populations. "One would have thought that county officials would be congratulating an employee who took the initiative to ensure that Los Angeles was included in well-deserved federal funding. Instead, personal attacks were launched against Kerndt's character, professionalism, ethics and commitment." Dr. Kerndt eventually was placed on involuntary administrative leave over allegations that he had not "informed his superiors about the grant," allegations that appear untrue upon subsequent examination of documents and communications between Kerndt, his superiors and the NIH. Rotheram-Borus concludes, "If the public's attention is diverted from public health issues to continued personal attacks, the major losers will be the citizens of Los Angeles" (2/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.