BANGKOK—The absence of American researchers at the International AIDS Conference here this week has left many pondering why the decision was made to limit US attendance, and by whom.

"It came from above [Secretary of Health and Human Services] Tommy Thompson," said one US researcher who was told not to present her paper and had to find funding from other sources to attend. Although her work was cofunded by her university, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) component meant she was forbidden to present or talk to the media, she told The Scientist. "So I'm not going to give you my name."

US officials have cited cost factors in the decision to impose a limit of 50 scientists attending from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the CDC. Among the missing, for example, is Jonathan Kagan, Deputy Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious...

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