**Reprinted with permission from Housing Works**
Posted by Sunny Bjerk , July 17, 2012
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.