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Report: NIH pays gay minors to discuss sexual activity without parents' permission

by WorldTribune Staff, January 30, 2022

U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill for a study which doles out hundreds of dollars each to gay and transgender boys as young as 13 to report their sexual activity on a mobile app.

It is all done without parental permission, the Washington Free Beacon reported on Jan. 27.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has poured more than $8 million of taxpayers' funds into the study, conducted by Columbia University, which offers up to $275 to gay and transgender boys, between the ages of 13 and 18, to document their sexual activity on MyPEEPS Mobile, including whether they have "condomless anal sex," the report said.

According to the research grant and study, the MyPEEPS Mobile app for "young men who have sex with men" provides "interactive games and activities" designed to teach teens how to minimize risk in their sex lives.

The Free Beacon noted that, according to one of the program's studies, teens taking part in the study were "recruited" to use the app in six different cities and traveled to attend "interventions" to discuss the sex education program, all without parental permission.

"There is an ethical balance between investigators' desire to enroll children in a study and the need to support parents in caring for their children," Dr. Monique Wubbenhorst, former deputy assistant administrator in the Bureau for Global Health at the U.S. Agency for International Development, told the Free Beacon. "There are additional concerns that minor children in this study may be engaged in sexually exploitative relationships with older males, sex trafficking/child prostitution, violence, and sexual abuse, from which they should be protected."

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations require researchers to apply for a waiver of parental permission for minors through designated institutional review boards, which determine if "an appropriate mechanism for protecting the children who will participate as subjects in the research is substituted."

The project leader of the MyPEEPS study, Dr. Rebecca Schnall, said her team was able to obtain a parental permission waiver from the institutional review board, alleging that the study poses minimal risk to its subjects.

Dr. Aaron Rothstein, a fellow in bioethics at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said he is surprised the Columbia University researchers were able to get a waiver for parental permission, especially considering the teenagers were paid and provided travel to attend group-based discussions.

"If parental consent is waived, there needs to be an appropriate mechanism in place to protect the minors," Rothstein told the Free Beacon.

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