Debating Funding for Sex Research

Article excerpt


The lack of understanding and the intrusiveness into the scientific process by many Republican lawmakers is startling ("House Republicans balk at sex-research funding," Thursday).

In the article, Rep. Patrick J. Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, states, "The important work of [the National Institutes of Health] ought to focus, as it usually does, on finding cures for the innumerable devastating illnesses affecting Americans." I couldn't agree more, but his suggestion that sexual risk taking is not worthy of study is an unfortunate and misplaced sentiment from an unqualified layperson.

AIDS kills more than 16,000 Americans each year, while an additional 40,000 become infected with HIV. Cervical cancer, caused by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, kills 5,000 American women each year. Fifty percent of all pregnancies are unintended, and half of those end in abortion. All of these conditions and many more are linked by a common factor: sexual risk taking.

A stated goal of one of the studies being attacked is "to gain an understanding of how mood and desire interact to compromise sound decision-making regarding sexual behavior." To develop strategies to reduce the risks, we need to understand what causes the risks in the first place. …