AIDS Researcher Robert Redfield to Lead CDC

Friday, 23 Mar, 2018

"Dr. Robert Redfield, a close colleague for more than 40 years, is an excellent choice to be head of the CDC", said Robert C. Gallo, MD, the Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, co-founder, and director of the IHV and co-founder and scientific director of the Global Virus Network (GVN).

Reaction to the pick has been mixed.

Redfield is set to replace former CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, who resigned in January following a conflict of interest after reports that she bought shares in tobacco, drug and food companies while serving as director in 2017.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar has named Robert Redfield, MD, director of the CDC.

While working at the Defense Department's Walter Reed Institute of Research in the 1980s, Redfield began researching the AIDS virus around the height of the epidemic.

However, his reputation as an HIV expert is not without controversy.

"In early 1993, the Army launched an investigation into Dr. Redfield's work after he misrepresented data on gp-160's effectiveness at an worldwide conference, " the Murray letter stated.

According to Murray, the Army launched an investigation into Dr. Redfield's work after he delivered data pertaining to gp-160's effectiveness at an worldwide conference, feeling that he misrepresented the information.

"Either he was egregiously sloppy with data or it was fabricated", Craig W. Hendrix, MD, now a professor and director of the division of pharmacology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told Kaiser Health News.

One of Redfield's original whistleblowers, former Air Force Lt. Col. Craig Hendrix, told Kaiser Health News this week that he was still skeptical about Redfield's handling of the vaccine research and has made a decision to speak out publicly. "It was somewhere on that spectrum, both of which were serious and raised questions about his trustworthiness". But, regardless of one's rationale for skepticism, it is almost impossible to think of anyone who might be on President Trump's shortlist for CDC director who would be as attentive, informed, and passionate about HIV-related issues as Redfield. "I have no doubt that Dr. Redfield will serve this nation extraordinarily well as the leader of its health security agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention".

The institute is the first in the U.S.to "combine the disciplines of basic science, epidemiology and clinical research in a concerted effort to speed the discovery of diagnostics and therapeutics for a wide variety of chronic and deadly viral and immune disorders - most notably HIV, the cause of AIDS", according to its website.

Murray noted what she called Redfield's "questionable behavior" and past support for controversial positions regarding the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, including his support for an Army practice of segregating HIV-positive troops into separate housing and his opinion that all positive HIV tests should be reported to public health officials without a patient's consent.

Still, others argue he's a respected researcher who will be a great fit for the position. "The AIDS epidemic in the United States particularly in cities like Baltimore is infinitely tied up with substance use and substance abuse", said Dr. James Curran, dean of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. "Most of the bad things he was associated with were quite a while ago and, unlike some of the people involved with AIDS in the beginning, he's been really, really committed for a long period of time". "We are proud to welcome him as director of the world's premier epidemiological agency", he said.