Friday, July 20, 2012

President Obama Nixes IAC Appearances, Opting for “Video Greeting” Instead

**Reprinted with permission from Housing Works**

Posted by Sunny Bjerk , July 17, 2012

Courtesy of CBS News

In an election year, it’s hard to criticize the President without someone asking if that means you’re endorsing this guy. But when it was announced yesterday that President Obama will not make an in-person appearance at the 19th annual International AIDS Conference and will instead send a “brief video message” to IAC attendees, conference organizers and global AIDS leaders knocked the President for his seemingly indifferent response to the IAC’s return to the U.S. and failing to demonstrate his Administration’s commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS at home and abroad.

Charles King, President and CEO of Housing Works, called President Obama’s decision not to speak a severe miscalculation. “He is giving up an opportunity to show real leadership on AIDS here in the US and abroad.” The President’s decision to send a video message was a major let down for IAC attendees and came after months of speculation about whether or not the President would make an appearance. With the formal announcement made less than a week before the start of the IAC, which is scheduled to begin on Sunday morning, July 22nd, HIV/AIDS leaders are now calling on the Obama Administration to demonstrate its commitment to battling the epidemic by restoring the proposed cuts to PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and taking steps to reduce the number of people on the waiting list for AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) which provides medications to uninsured and low-income people across the country.

Others are calling the criticisms leveled against President Obama misleading, redirecting the focus on the HIV/AIDS measures his Administration has overseen. Programs and examples include $1 billion for ADAP programs—an increase of $67 million from previous fiscal years—and increasing funding for the Ryan White AIDS Drug Assistance Program by $75 million. Others champion the drafting and passing of the Affordable Care Act, which will cover many new populations under the revamping of Medicare, including those with pre-existing conditions, children with HIV/AIDS, individuals and families with an income below 133% of the Federal poverty line, and individuals no longer having to wait for an official AIDS diagnosis to be eligible for Medicare.

Is it a mixed bag? Absolutely. It’s undeniable that President Obama’s decision not to speak at the IAC feels like a slap in the face, considering the steady rates of HIV/AIDS infection in the country and the simple logistic fact that the conference is happening in his backyard. Who knows. Maybe he doesn’t want to run into George W. Bush, who is also scheduled to speak at the conference. Let’s hope President Obama’s actions in the next year ring louder than his video greeting.


msfwdc said...

I suppose every cause needs a nagger and agitator component. I see the nagger and agitator element as having a "glass half empty" view. IMHO, it is easy to see the flaws and the incomplete work. It is easy to tell other people what to do and what they could have done better.

I prefer to be a part of the worker ground force that focuses on deeds and accomplishments that I and my colleagues produce. There are days I would find it less taxing to sit back and be a critic. However, progress depends on the workers who make things happen.

I see President Obama as a worker who has made things happen through his personal efforts and those of his administration. He is also a team leader who needs the support of his team (citizens)to prod and motivate the Congress, governors, state legislators and other to do their part which is needed to provide the part of the success equation that the POTUS simply cannot control.

Those who think or act as if they believe President Obama is satisfied that what has been done is enough or that he would not like to do more are way off base.

Would I like to see President Obama show up at AIDS 2012 and speak in person? Sure, it would be nice.

Would having President Obama show up at AIDS 2012 and speak in person save one life, get one more pill to a person in need or create an additional doctor visit? No, not really.

So, given a choice between a symbol and action, I choose action. When it comes to action, President Obama has a list of accomplishments for HIV/AIDS that is highly commendable, even more commendable when you realize how uncooperative much of the Congress has been during his first term.

We need to advocate for added action that is needed. In doing so, I suggest that we get behind President Obama (as well as Secretary Sibelius, Secretary Clinton and others)instead of in his face, that we treat him as an ally rather than an adversary.

That's my perspective shared IMHO.

ADAP Advocacy Association said...

Thanks Mark for your feedback, and perspective!

Raymond said...

I don't know if a reason was given as to why he can't do it so that is my question: Why wouldn't he, especially in an election year? Does he not know the infection rates in his own city of D.C.?! It won't make me vote for the other guy, but I feel coming to the conference in person would be important to those of us living with the virus because it would show us that he is on our side, and yes, that may in fact save many lives. Will we at least be seeing his wife, or is she not aware of the infection rates in her own race/age group? This administration is doing no more to end this epidemic than previous ones and without that leadership the band just keeps playing on and on.

ADAP Advocacy Association said...

Thanks Raymond for sharing your thoughts!

msfwdc said...

This article itemizes the major accomplishments of President Obama and his administration that set it apart from and above previous presidencies in it HIV/AIDS efforts.

HHS Secretary Sibalius, Secretary of State Clinton, ONAP Head Dr. Graaqnt COlfax and dozens of other top Obama adminstration officials involved in HIV/AIDS policy and programs will participate fully in AIDS 2012.

AIDS 2012 Update: President Obama's absence is not a cause for outrage
July 20, 2012
By: Candace Y.A. Montague, DC HIV and AIDS Examiner

The White House announced that President Obama will not be in attendance at the International AIDS Conference next week. Instead he will send a video message. Some critics say that this is a bad move on his part. The chance to meet and greet hundreds of foreign dignitaries and leading researchers at a conference about a disease that is affecting millions around the world is a prime opportunity. This kind of move can be viewed as bad politics. However, this Examiner would like to point out a few important details that show that President Obama is not exactly ignoring AIDS like one would assume because of this absence.

>> In 2009, Congress passed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act, which was signed by President Obama on October 30, 2009. This bill extends the Ryan White Care Act for an additional four years but, unlike previous bills, contains no “sunset clause” which means it will continue in effect even if Congress fails to act. This fact and significant improvements to the Ryan White programs are a direct result of work by the Obama Administration and its Congressional allies.

>> In 2009, President Obama lifted the travel ban on persons with HIV/AIDS coming into this country. Thanks to this action, the International AIDS Conference can actually be held here in the US.

>> In 2010, his administration released the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy. No other president has used his time and resources while in office to produce such a plan. Is it perfect? No. But it’s a foundation for forward thinking groups to build on.

>> He has withstood a whole boatload of criticism and fervor to pass the Affordable Care Act, which provides insurance coverage to people with HIV who were previously denied coverage. The ACA also expands Medicaid coverage to large numbers of people thereby increasing participation by people living with HIV/AIDS who previously relied on Ryan White funds only. It also alleviates some of the cost of lifesaving drugs to people who are unable to afford them.

>> Speaking of life-saving drugs, the Obama administration just announced yesterday that it is awarding $80 million in grants to increase access to care for people with HIV/AIDS. If I'm not mistaken, that’s $30 million more than what he pledged to do on World AIDS Day. This could be a political strategy to win some nods but it will also relieve many of the 2,030 people from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) waiting list.

The points in this list are significant and should not be ignored. One could conceive this truancy of sorts as a slap in the face. There have been legitimate questions asked about his track record with HIV/AIDS. But I simply cannot ignore these points and other efforts to fight HIV that have not been spotlighted by the media. It’s going to take more than a missed opportunity at the IAC for this Examiner to lose faith in him when it comes to fighting AIDS. President Obama may be absent for the conference but his presence will definitely be felt based on his video appearance and his record of accomplishments.

Just my two cents.

ADAP Advocacy Association said...

But likewise, there is a different view of his absence that is worth noting evidenced in this article, as well as many others:

Obama Will Not Attend the 19th International AIDS Conference in D.C.

By 16/07/2012 23:21:00

In a move that has even the international community scratching its collective head, President Barack Obama has turned down repeated requests to attend the 19th International AIDS Conference taking place at the Washington Convention Center next week, reports