XIX International AIDS Conference

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MOPE604 - Poster Exhibition


From grid to gridlock: the relationship between scientific breakthroughs and HIV/AIDS policy in the U.S. Congress

M. Platt1, M. Platt2

1Harvard, Government, Cambridge, United States, 2Georgia Institute of Technology/Emory University, Biomedical Engineering, Atlanta, United States

Background: The 30th anniversary of HIV/AIDS celebrated scientific progress and movement towards eradication and cure. Less discussion has occurred of how scientific progress and U.S. laws regarding HIV/AIDS have interacted, particularly in the wake of antiquated laws established during the early years of the epidemic, yet extended due to politics, ideologies, and stigma influencing today's Congress. We begin that discussion by examining the relationship between major scientific discoveries in HIV/AIDS and U.S. Congressional attention toward HIV/AIDS policy issues from 1981 to 2011.
Methods: Using the Library of Congress's THOMAS site with Congressional Research Service search terms, we collected and coded HIV/AIDS bills from 1981 to 2010 and supplemented bill-level data with Congressional Bills Project, NOMINATE scores, and Congressional Biographical Data on voting members of Congress. Major scientific breakthroughs regarding HIV/AIDS were compiled from papers published in high impact scientific journals or those deemed seminal by the basic and clinical scientific community. This allowed us to establish a relationship (or lack thereof) between scientific progress and congressional attention, at aggregate and individual levels. Descriptive statistics, event count analysis, and multi-level logistic regression will all be used for final analyses.
Results: Preliminary results suggest congressional attention to HIV/AIDS is driven by standard variables in political science literature - party affiliation, ideology, majority status, etc. However, the analysis of content coding suggests congressional attention has become more humane and inclusive (as opposed to discriminatory) over time. The expectation from ongoing sophisticated multivariate analysis is that little evidence exists of Congress allocating attention to HIV/AIDS in response to important scientific discoveries and breakthroughs.
Conclusions: Politics trumps science as a driver of congressional agenda setting. However, there is still an important role for scientific discovery in crafting the content of legislation. Future work should include scientific progress as an important exogenous component of how policymakers pay attention to disease.

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