Recently, I’ve been seeing headlines on my web page regarding the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) and its activities.  It seems like there was a whole lot going on with sex and drugs so I figured I’d check it out because it all sounded far more interesting than Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings.

The NIH is the Nation’s medical research agency. Funded by U.S. tax dollars, the NIH supports researchers throughout the country and around the world as they work to improve people’s health.

Now, my musings are supposed to be on political, cultural and social life in America but I figure I can still “muse” about some of these studies because the money is coming from US!  Hold on to your wallets, because you’re not going to believe this.

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a part of the NIH, will pay $2.6 million to train Chinese prostitutes to drink responsibly on the job.  Excuse me, in this grant prostitutes are referred to as “female sex workers” and their handlers/pimps as “gatekeepers.”  The grant’s intent is to try and develop an intervention program targeting HIV risk and alcohol use and has three components:  “(1)  gatekeeper training with a focus on changing or enhancing the protective social norms and policy/practice at the establishment level; (2) female sex workers trainings with a focus on the acquisition of communication skills and behavioral skills; and (3) semi-annual boosters to reinforce both social norms within establishments and individual skills.”

Don’t we give the Chinese enough of our money?  Ever tried to buy something not made in China?

The NIH is funding $400,000 to study drinking and sex habits of homosexuals in Argentina.  The two-year study will end this August and its focus is to determine the relationship among drinking, bars frequented by homosexuals, and risky sexual behavior to see if certain bars in Argentina might be good targets for HIV-prevention campaigns.  Among other things, the study seeks to identify which factors contribute to alcohol consumption and sexual behavior in the bars.

Hold on, it gets better.

The people at the NIH, Gob bless their souls, are spending $117,876 to study “party drug” use in Brazil. Their focus is on the use of ecstasy, LSD and other “party drugs.”  According to the NIH summary of the grant, “the topic is interesting and the data will be useful to understand the emerging problem of club drugs and raves in Brazil.”  The summary also said “the proposal states that they will distribute ‘harm reduction’ literature at club events and that is positive.  However, plans are not fully laid out for developing an intervention that is culturally appropriate and effective for this population.”

Again, with the help of our government ATM machine, the NIH has so far awarded $1.44 million in federal funds to a project that is estimating the “social milieu” of male prostitutes in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  The study focuses on the impact of male sex work on the growing HIV epidemic in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.  The project began in July 2008 and continues until March 2012.

The NIH has spent over $2 million on a study that seeks to increase condom use among intravenous drug users in, you guessed it, Kazakhstan!  Yep, I’ll bet each and every one of you can point to Kazakhstan on the map.  Just look for the U.S. dollars signs!  Eligible participants in the study must have at least one partner report “unsafe injection and unprotected sexual intercourse in the past 30 days.”

Another grant of $550,496 was given to the National Institute of Mental Health, a division of the NIH, for a project which involved interviewing American long-haul truck drivers to learn about their sex lives in order to assess their risk of contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted infections.

What’s that I hear?  Did someone just flush the toilet?  I can see all those Benjamin Franklins circling the bowl.

But, fear not.  I’ve saved the best for last but I need to tell you a few things first.  In my front yard, I have several bird feeders and a squirrel feeder.  I love watching the wildlife activity throughout the day while I’m working in my office.  Hummingbirds are collectively called “Spike,” all raccoons are called “Skinny” and squirrels are all called “Fred.”  Fred is very greedy and will do absolutely anything to get to the bird food even though I keep his little box full of his goodies.  Fred is also very selfish because he won’t let any other Fred have any of his food while he’s feeding.

Well, now I know the reason.  He was born in America!

The National Science Foundation – not part of the NHI – received a grant of $600,000 to study, over five years, ground squirrels in Africa!  According to Jane Waterman, the researcher who will be studying Fred’s relatives in Africa, the furry animals are fascinating because male African squirrels are so friendly to each other.  The only time they spend with females is for sex and they don’t fight over females as American squirrels do.  “They hang out in large male bands and they like each other.”  She believes that studying the evolution of squirrel breeding gives us a better understanding of our environment and ourselves.

I guess my Fred could learn a little from his African brethren.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t get how how any of these studies or projects has any effect on one American and I don’t get why the government is so interested in the sex lives of just about every person (and squirrel) on the planet.  And, if you do, God bless you.

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