From GRID to gridlock: the relationship between scientific biomedical breakthroughs and HIV/AIDS policy in the US Congress
Platt, Manu ONote: Order does not necessarily reflect citation order of authors.
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CitationPlatt, Matthew B., and Manu O Platt. 2013. “From GRID to gridlock: the relationship between scientific biomedical breakthroughs and HIV/AIDS policy in the US Congress.” Journal of the International AIDS Society 16 (1): 18446. doi:10.7448/IAS.16.1.18446. http://dx.doi.org/10.7448/IAS.16.1.18446.
AbstractIntroduction: From the travel ban on people living with HIV (PLHIV) to resistance to needle exchange programmes, there are many examples where policy responses to HIV/AIDS in the United States seem divorced from behavioural, public health and sociological evidence. At its root, however, the unknowns about HIV/AIDS lie at biomedical science, and scientific researchers have made tremendous progress over the past 30 years of the epidemic by using antiretroviral therapy to increase the life expectancy of PLHIV almost to the same level as non-infected individuals; but a relationship between biomedical science discoveries and congressional responses to HIV/AIDS has not been studied. Using quantitative approaches, we directly examine the hypothesis that progress in HIV/AIDS biomedical science discoveries would have a correlative relationship with congressional response to HIV/AIDS from 1981 to 2010. Methods: This study used original data on every bill introduced, hearing held and law passed by the US Congress relating to HIV/AIDS over 30 years (1981–2010). We combined congressional data with the most cited and impactful biomedical research scientific publications over the same time period as a metric of biomedical science breakthroughs. Correlations between congressional policy and biomedical research were then analyzed at the aggregate and individual levels. Results: Biomedical research advancements helped shape both the level and content of bill sponsorship on HIV/AIDS, but they had no effect on other stages of the legislative process. Examination of the content of bills and biomedical research indicated that science helped transform HIV/AIDS bill sponsorship from a niche concern of liberal Democrats to a bipartisan coalition when Republicans became the majority party. The trade-off for that expansion has been an emphasis on the global epidemic to the detriment of domestic policies and programmes. Conclusions: Breakthroughs in biomedical science did associate with the number and types of HIV/AIDS bills introduced in Congress, but that relationship did not extend to the passage of laws or to hearings. When science matters, it cannot be separated from political considerations. An important implication of our work has been the depoliticizing role that science can play. Scientific breakthroughs helped to transform HIV/AIDS policy from a niche of liberal Democrats into bipartisan support for the global fight against the disease.
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