FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Truth Wins Out Expresses Disgust With Decision to Undermine AIDS Vaccine by Trump Administration
Move to Curtail Use of Fetal Tissue for Research is Cynical Ploy to Appeal to Right Wing Base at the Expense of Saving Lives
WASHINGTON – Truth Wins Out expressed profound disgust today with the Trump administration after it ordered scientists employed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to stop acquiring new human fetal tissue for experiments. ScienceInsider reports that the move disrupted a study that probed how the HIV virus initially colonizes human tissues. The suspension affects two laboratories run by the Bethesda, Maryland–based agency, according to NIH officials, with one HIV researcher saying that he is “devastated” and that the move “completely knocked our collaboration off the rails.”
“This potentially deadly decision by the Trump administration and his right wing supporters prove that they are not ‘pro-life’, but they certainly are ferociously anti-gay,” said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen. “Only heartless ideologues deficient in empathy and devoid of human decency would willfully obstruct attempts to find a cure for a disease that has killed millions of people across the globe. This mean-spirited, hypocritical action rips off the mask and exposes the hollow words spoken by religious extremists who have long cynically claimed to ‘love’ LGBT people, even as they attack our lives and undermine our families.”
This was the latest decision to please Trump’s base, at a hazardous time in his presidency, where he will need loyalty as Robert Mueller’s probe swiftly closes in. The Religious Right strongly opposes federally funded research that uses human fetal tissue from elective abortions, even though the procedure is legal and the women agree to donate the tissue to science. The tissue is injected into mice, which can then be used to test the effects of potential HIV vaccines. The radical position held by anti-abortion extremists is contradictory, because they claim to be in favor of human life, but seem content to aggressively impede a cure for AIDS, allowing multitudes of people to become infected, with many eventually dying from the disease.
Leading scientists who are working on HIV vaccines have outspokenly criticized this decision.
“We were all poised to go and then the bombshell was dropped,” says HIV researcher Warner Greene, director of the Gladstone Center for HIV Cure Research in San Francisco, who was collaborating with an NIH laboratory that received the order. “The decision completely knocked our collaboration off the rails. We were devastated.” Greene added that even if the HHS order is eventually lifted, the lost time would be consequential. “If we were given the green light right now” to resume acquiring fetal tissue, he says, “it would probably take us a year to get back in the position we were in when the ban was put in place.”
Once the news became public, NIH has tried to justify the unnecessary delay (or permanent ban): “After this story was published, NIH emailed an additional statement to Sciencemag.org. It said the agency in September “put a pause in place” for staff scientists procuring new human fetal tissue, “an action NIH thought was prudent given the examination of these procurements. Research with tissue already on hand could proceed, and NIH leaders asked to be notified by intramural investigators if new procurement would be necessary. NIH leadership was not informed that new procurement was necessary for the study you reference in your story. We are looking into why this did not occur.”
“Unfortunately, each day the research is ‘paused’ or permanently stopped by the Religious Right and the Trump administration’s ideological game playing, another day passes where we don’t have a cure and people will die,” said TWO’s Besen. “We will continue to keep an eye on this situation as it develops and speak out and fight against right wing extremism.”
Founded in 2006, Truth Wins Out is a nonprofit think tank and advocacy organization that fights against right wing extremism and anti-LGBT prejudice and discrimination.