Tuesday, December 19, 2006

NIH Wants $538 for 5,000 Pages on HIV Drug Panel

[This letter was sent yesterday to the NIH.]

December 18, 2006

Karin Lohman
NIAID FOIA Office, Acting Chief
Bethesda, MD

Re: FOI Case No. 32469

Dear Ms. Lohman:

This letter is acknowledging receipt of the December 11, 2006, letter from your colleague Ms. Lauren Price.

That letter states the following: "At this time we have located at least 4,931 pages responsive to your request, with fees totaling $538.11. These fees may increase as the processing of your records continues, as more records may be released to you. At this time we are requesting a promise to pay the above fees before we continue processing your request."

As you know, I've requested copies of many documents related to the National Institutes of Health's Panel on Clinical Practices for Treatment of HIV infection, hereafter referred to as the "Panel," and am keen to receive all files the NIAID FOIA office has located.

However, at this point, I am requesting a fee waiver, as permitted under the provisions of FOIA, for several reasons that apply in my case.

First, I am both a news blogger and a columnist for the HIV/AIDS monthly publication POZ magazine, and as a member of the media, I ask that the processing and copy fees be waived.

You can verify my news blogger status by visiting my site: http://petrelisfiles.com/ . And you can read my columns for POZ magazine at these links: POZ, August 2006 and also POZ, April 2006.

Second, I seek the records for strict non-commercial reasons and disclosure of the information is in the public interest, especially to people with AIDS, our doctors and other caregivers, and because it will contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government.

Third, I have previously requested of the Panel's executive secretary and Panel members that they web-post all of the documents and minutes on the NIAID web site. This request has not been met, and if it had, and the pertinent files were available on NIAID's site, for public inspection without any fee, my FOIA request for the Panel's records would be moot and unnecessary. Frankly, I believe the Panel and NIAID must reconsider its policy of not making such Panel documents available on the web, on a regularly updated basis, so that the information contained therein, will shed light on this important government function, the recommendations by federal officials to keep people with AIDS alive and well.

Fourth, I wish to amend my original request and ask that the NIAID FOIA office, to reduce or totally negate any processing and copying fees, provide me with any and all responsive records found in electronic format that can be sent to me via email, or, on CD discs, which can be mailed to me.

Fifth, and maybe the most important reason to waive all fees, I am a person with AIDS seeking these records to share with my doctor, longtime partner, friends and family, so I can make the most informed health choices in living with HIV disease.

If you wish to discuss this request for a fee waiver, please call me at 415-xxx-xxxx.

A prompt reply is requested and appreciated.

Sincerely yours,
Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA

1 comment:

HIV+DaveyBoy said...

It really sucks to have to pay for information to help the world, its like black mail!

Come chat with other POZ @ http://www.HIV-Chat.org :)