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NIH used taxpayer dollars to fund study in which gay teens log sexual activity sans parental consent

The project, run through Columbia University, has cost $8 million over a decade

Published: January 27, 2022 8:31am

Updated: January 27, 2022 2:52pm

The National Institutes of Health has spent over $8 million on a taxpayer funded study that pays homosexual and transgender boys as young as 13 to report their sexual behavior on a mobile app, without the necessity of parental consent.

Researchers at Columbia University funded by the NIH offered as much as $275 to gay and transgender boys aged 13-18 to document their sexual behavior on the app MyPEEPS Mobile.

The app asks the teenage boys to document, among other things, whether they are having "condom-less anal sex."

The app was developed for upwards of $300,000 about a decade ago, and $7.9 million have been spent since 2016 for Ivy League researchers to study the data collected on platform, according to a report from the Washington Free Beacon. 

The mobile app offers "young men who have sex with men" games and interactive activities meant to instruct the teenagers to minimize risk in their sex lives.

Despite the app's purported goal of safety, ethical questions arose when it became clear that the program recruited teenage participants to use the app and, in some cases, travel to attend discussions about the program, without parental permission.

Dr. Rebecca Schnall, the MyPEEPS study project leader, told the Beacon that she and her research team were able to obtain a parental permission waiver from the Columbia University review board due to the minimal risk imposed by the study on its subjects.

Schnall told the Beacon, "If parental permission were sought, then our study participants may not be willing to participate in this study because they will fear their parents' knowledge of their sexuality and sexual activities."

Schnall also said there is no plan to make the information on the app public, as it is currently only used for research purposes.

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