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Congressional Quarterly: AIDS Group Shows Impatience

By: Shawn Zeller, CQ Weekly

Washington, DC - May 4, 2009 - Most advocacy groups that consider President Obama to be a likely friend in the White House have been patient as he finds his footing. Not so the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a Los Angeles group that runs pharmacies and treatment centers and relies on government contracts and other health care spending.

Late last month, the foundation began running TV ads in New York and Washington accusing Obama of "silence on AIDS." In fact, according to foundation president Michael Weinstein, as president Obama has yet to mention the term "AIDS."

Because the disease is mostly associated in the United States with homosexuals and drug use, Weinstein says, administration officials may be avoiding the issue. "I think they've made a political calculation that it's not in their best interest to put this front and center," he said.

The foundation is just as disappointed with the administration's deeds as with its words. The White House and Democratic leaders, for instance, helped scuttle a plan by Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa to direct $400 million in economic stimulus spending to AIDS testing and prevention. Other stimulus money the foundation had hoped would be used for AIDS testing is slated to go toward smoking-cessation programs instead.

Moreover, Weinstein's group is concerned that Obama hasn't reversed President George W. Bush 's directive for abstinence-only sex eduction.

Other AIDS activists are more willing to wait. Rebecca Haag, executive director of AIDS Action, has met with the director of the White House's Office of National AIDS Policy, Jeffrey Crowley, and is collaborating with him on AIDS-prevention programs. "After eight years in the wilderness, it's going to take us a while," she says, adding that now AIDS activists are "openly embraced" by the administration.

But Weinstein says the administration has put AIDS disturbingly low on its priority list. "They struck down the ban on stem cell research. They struck down the gag rule for abortion," he says. "This is of equal importance."

- CQ Weekly

 

Press contacts::

Ged Kenslea
,
Communications Director, AHF
Tel: (323) 860-5225 work,
Fax: (323) 791-5526 mobile
gedk@aidshealth.org
or
Lori Yeghiayan,
Associate Director of Communications, AHF
Tel: (323) 860-5227 work,
Fax: (323) 377-4312 mobile
lori.yeghiayan@aidshealth.org


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