July 9, 2012
By Julian Pecquet
Activists are reigniting their attacks against President Obama’s record on battling AIDS ahead of the International AIDS Conference in Washington later this month.
Two weeks before the conference of 20,000 leading researchers, patients and advocates, the administration has yet to confirm Obama’s attendance at the Walter E.
Washington Convention Center just one mile from the White House. This is the first time in more than two decades that the event, which will feature former Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, takes place in the United States after Obama in 2009 lifted the 22-year-old ban on entry for people with the disease.
Despite that record, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in a teleconference with reporters on Monday said Obama shouldn’t bother showing up unless he’s going to pledge a renewed commitment to the international fight against AIDS.
“The president’s failure at this late date to commit to attending the conference unfortunately speaks volumes about this administration’s commitment to the AIDS epidemic,” said Tom Myers, the foundation’s chief of public affairs and general counsel. “This commitment has been lukewarm at best.”s
The foundation is particularly upset about the 2,000 people on the waiting list for the domestic AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) that provides drugs to low-income Americans, and the $214 million cut — from $6.63 billion this year down to $6.42 billion — in the administration’s proposed FY2013 budget for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS (PEPFAR). The foundation wants the administration to immediately authorize the transfer of Health and Human Services Department funds to ADAP and restore PEPFAR funding to this year’s levels.
“Given this background, and given this late date,” Myers said, “AHF suggests that it may be better if the president not attend the conference, if he’s coming without any concrete proposals to fix these problems.”
The cuts come as the administration has been struggling to rein in the federal deficit while proposing a 57 percent increase in FY 2013 for the public-private Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The proposed $1.65 billion would help the United States meet its pledge of $4 billion over three years, but comes at the expense of funding for PEPFAR.