BOSTON, December 18, 2017—On Friday, The Washington Post reported that officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) could not use the words and phrases “transgender,” “diversity,” “entitlement,” “vulnerable,” “fetus,” “science-based,” and “evidence-based” in official documents related to the federal 2019 budget. On Sunday, in a series of tweets, CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald asserted that “there are no banned words at CDC.” Fenway Health Interim CEO Jane Powers offered the following statement in response:
“These reports of restrictions on the use of language by public health officials at the CDC are deeply troubling. It does not matter whether there is an outright ban based on ideology, or whether the list originated as a strategy to gain support for the CDC budget among Republican conservatives. Telling public health officials working to prevent Zika, HIV and other diseases what words they can use is Orwellian. It is not what we expect to see in a democracy, and such policies—whether they are formal or informal—harm public health.
“Disease treatment and prevention must be driven by science and evidence. That includes the proper use of terminology, such as ‘transgender,’ which describes a population that bears a disproportionate burden of sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV, and which also experiences barriers to accessing competent and affirming health care. Accommodating intolerance of people who are transgender by discouraging the use of accurate language is extremely dangerous.