Over two dozen AIDS activists were arrested just outside the U.S. Capitol building yesterday while protesting President Barack Obama’s failure to honor his campaign promises of increased funding for AIDS programs.
During the election, Obama pledged to spend over $1 billion a year on global AIDS and to fully fund housing for HIV-positive people in need. Activists say the administration’s 2010 budget proposal does not live up to these promises. (See the full statement from the Health Global Access Project below.)
The Obama administration has also failed to meet another campaign promise — to lift a federal funding ban on syringe exchange, a policy that allows intravenous drug users to swap used needles for clean ones.
“Providing clean syringes is proven to be one of the most effective public health interventions since the polio vaccine,” said Jennifer Flynn, managing director of Health GAP. “It is clear that it works, but yet, we now have to wait for Congress to act to have the freedom to use every possible resource to make it widely available.”
Before Obama was inaugurated in January, AIDS advocates had high hopes for a renewed U.S. commitment to fighting the disease both at home and abroad. According to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, however, Obama’s first official plan to fight domestic HIV/AIDS “falls far short” of what is needed to confront the growing epidemic. The government’s $45 million media campaign, launched in early April, aims to raise awareness about domestic HIV/AIDS over the next five years.
“There are approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. living with HIV/AIDS today. More than 300,000 of these individuals have never had an HIV test and therefore do not know their HIV status. A $45 million communications plan no matter how well intended will do little to help identify those 300,000 infected individuals who may unknowingly be infecting others,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “If this proposal is any indication of how President Obama and his Administration intend to address the AIDS epidemic domestically or globally, we are deeply disappointed.”
Overall, U.S. health advocates were extremely disappointed by the health provisions in the president’s 2010 budget, reported the humanitarian Inter Press Service (IPS). “This proposal is even worse than we had feared,” said Christine Lubinski, director of the Center for Global Health Policy. “With this spending request, Obama has broken his campaign promise to provide 1 billion dollars a year in new money for global AIDS, and he has overlooked the growing threat of tuberculosis.”
The budget “essentially flat-lines support for global health,” added Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance. This seemingly confirms the health community’s fears that Obama would come short of meeting his global health campaign pledges due to the government’s growing financial deficit, notes IPS.
27 AIDS Activists Arrested in Capitol Building Demanding Promised Funding & Policy Changes
From: Health GAP
With a new HIV infection every 9 ½ minutes in the US, why are we bailing out the bankers and leaving people with HIV without?
Washington, DC- Dozens of AIDS activists from across the Northeast U.S. risked arrest today, staging a loud demonstration inside the Capitol Rotunda on the eve of key Congressional votes on appropriations for life-saving programs and one day before President Obama’s first trip to Africa since his election.
The activists decried the Obama administration’s failure to make good on a range of AIDS campaign promises including his pledge: to lift the federal ban on funding syringe exchange, to fully fund lifesaving global AIDS programs, and to fully fund AIDS housing programs in this year’s budget. The activists demanded Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Congressional leadership fix President Obama’s flawed budget proposal.
“HIV is not in recession,” said Omolola Adele-Oso of DC Fights Back. “So why are we bailing out the bankers with $9 trillion, but breaking promises to fund life-saving AIDS programs in the US and around the world at a fraction of that cost?”
Activists noted that despite campaign pledges to increase bilateral global AIDS (PEPFAR) funding by $1 billion a year and fully fund the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, the Administration’s budget proposal essentially flat-lines global AIDS funding. Unless President Obama and Congress keep their promise to fund their fair share of the Global Fund’s needed, for example, the Global Fund will have to cut billions of dollars worth of life saving grants.
The activists also denounced the administration’s failure to lift the ban on syringe exchange funding. “Thousands of people have died in the past decade because clean syringes aren’t available,” said Jose De Marco, an HIV+ member of ACT UP Philadelphia and Proyecto Sol Filadelphia. “President Obama, who many of us worked to elect, promised to follow the science and lift the federal funding ban on needle exchange, but his budget explicitly included the ban. Now it’s up to Congress to show real courage where the President has not.”
“We are here because we know that our friends, families, and communities are still dying,” said Larry Bryant of Housing Works. “From DC to California to Zambia people living with AIDS need Congress to act this week and need the administration to make good on its promises.”
Gustavo Pedroza, of the New York City AIDS Housing Network commented: “Housing is one of our most basic needs and a critical part of HIV treatment, care and prevention – without it, other strategies to fight HIV simply don’t work. Given the rising cost of housing, President Obama’s proposal to flat-fund federal AIDS housing programs will mean low-income people with HIV will lose their housing, not to mention longer waiting lists for a life-saving home.”