What Has President Obama Done About AIDS?

As part of its ongoing advocacy efforts to spur President Obama and his administration to do more on AIDS, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is rolling out a new national ad campaign headlined ‘What has the President done about AIDS?’

The first leg of the campaign, a series of pointed online text and banner ads on Politico.com’s Playbook and Pulse websites started running Monday July 4th on Mike Allen’s Politico Playbook and will run through Friday July 15th on Politico’s Pulse.

A ‘What has the President done about AIDS?’ television ad premieres on CNN in several markets, starting Monday July 11th in Washington, DC and on Monday July 18th in Florida (Miami-Dade market)—the state with the most severe AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) waiting list crisis with over 3,500 AIDS patients currently on its waiting list—and in Ohio (Columbus), a state with another significant ADAP crisis.

[ Also Read: Americans Call for End to U.S. Militarism ]

To round out the campaign, AHF will also run a ‘What has the President done about AIDS?’ outdoor transit ad in ten bus shelters in Washington surrounding the White House starting July 18th.

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 black women were tested for HIV in 2010 through an initiative created by the Florida Department of Health. Sistas Organizing to Survive (SOS) is the grassroots mobilization of black women in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and is stated to be the first of its kind in the nation. (Read: 100,000 Black Women Tested for HIV in 2010)

Earlier, more than 50 AIDS activists from the groups Housing Works, AIDS Action in Mississippi (AAIM) and AHF interrupted a speech by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius with a protest to decry the Obama administration’s dismal record on AIDS. (Read: Don’t Let Us Down! Don’t Let Us Die!)

AHF had also rolled out an ad headlined “President Obama, The War on AIDS Has Not Been Won.” It compared the amount of U.S. dollars spent fighting the global AIDS epidemic vs. the amount spent on the war in Afghanistan. (Read: Obama, The War on AIDS Has Not Been Won)

“After two-and-a-half years in office, President Obama has little to show on AIDS domestically or globally. US AIDS programs have been starved. Today, more than 8,600 Americans in thirteen states are on waiting lists, denied access to lifesaving AIDS drugs from hard-hit state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. Additional thousands are being disenrolled entirely as states change their patient eligibility criteria for these programs,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

“As wait lists grew to the highest numbers ever seen, instead of addressing the crisis at hand, President Obama squandered fifteen months drafting a national AIDS strategy. And by not honoring the US’ commitment to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the President has also slowed remarkable progress made on global AIDS. All this at a time of the greatest hope on AIDS in years: new studies show that AIDS treatment can reduce the transmission of new HIV infections by as much as 96%.”

For the first time ever, a massive red ribbon appeared on the side of Twin Peaks to mark the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of AIDS in the United States. (Read: Giant AIDS Ribbon on the 30th Year of Disease)

AHF states when campaigning for President, then-Senator Obama promised to “provide at least $50 billion by 2013 for the global fight against HIV/AIDS . . . in order to at least double the number of HIV-positive people on treatment and continue to provide treatments to one- third of all those who desperately need them.”

As President, Obama has not honored that promise, refusing to fully-fund PEPFAR, the landmark U.S. global AIDS response created by President George W. Bush in 2003, says AHF.

The AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) is a federal/state funded, state run network of programs that supply lifesaving AIDS drugs to low-income Americans in need.

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Rakesh Raman