Trump’s New CDC Director Has Controversial History of AIDS Research

Dr. Robert Redfield has been linked with flawed research and views outside of the scientific mainstream.

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention got a new director: Robert Redfield, a prominent University of Maryland HIV researcher. Appointed to the role by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Redfield will replace former director Brenda Fitzgerald, who resigned in January over financial conflicts of interest. 

Redfield’s critics point to a track record mired in controversy. In the 1990s, he oversaw a trial of an AIDS vaccine at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research; that work was later found to be inaccurate. From Kaiser Health News’ reporting on the incident: 

“Either he was egregiously sloppy with data or it was fabricated,” said former Air Force Lt. Col. Craig Hendrix, a doctor who is now director of the division of clinical pharmacology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “It was somewhere on that spectrum, both of which were serious and raised questions about his trustworthiness.”

The Army investigated that work in 1994 and cleared Redfield of misconduct allegations. 

Earlier, in the 1980s, Redfield led an effort to screen all members of the military for HIV, and prohibit those who tested positive from serving. He also supported HIV testing of civilians during routine doctor visits and when applying for marriage licenses, a policies that most of the public health community strongly opposed.

In a March 19 letter (PDF) to President Trump, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) called Redfield’s record “ethically and morally questionable” and urged the president to “reconsider Dr. Redfield as a candidate for CDC director.” 

Redfield hasn’t commented publicly on his current stance on HIV policy. As Gregg Gonsalves, an AIDS researcher with the Yale School of Public Health told the New York Times, “We don’t have to be defined by our pasts, but Dr. Redfield has to clarify where he stands now on key issues and place himself firmly in the mainstream of evidence-based public health.”

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate