Economists call for cut in research funding

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The Independent Online
THREE economists want funding for research into Aids cut, claiming HIV groups have more money than they know what to do with and that the risk of the disease spreading outside high- risk groups is 'negligible'.

Barrie Craven and Majid Taghavi, of Northumbria University, and Gordon Stewart, of Glasgow University, say the money can be better spent in other areas of the health service.

In a report published today in the Journal of Public Policy, the economists say: 'Some regions have been allocated so much money that the district health authorities cannot spend it all. In attempting to do so they have reported schemes inviting ridicule.'

The paper claims Aids education should be limited to high- risk groups such as drug users and people whose 'sexual behaviour' puts them in danger. Mr Craven, 46, research fellow in the business school at Northumbria, Newcastle, said: 'There are now more Aids workers than there are patients for them to treat.

'We do not feel there will now be a spread to the general community outside the accepted high-risk groups. We should be putting the money into areas where there is a true epidemic, such as heart disease and cancer, as well as life-spoiling diseases like mental illness and multiple sclerosis.

'There are too many people with a vested interest in keeping funding at its present unnecessary level . . . an Aids industry has sprung up.'

Jim McManus, HIV planning and policy officer with Cleveland County Council, who has just completed an investigation into 30 HIV groups in the North said the claims were 'utter rubbish and fly in the face of expert opinion across the world'.

He added: 'I refute totally what they say about local authority spending on Aids matters. By and large what money there is has been well spent.'