President Obama’s plan to improve health care treatment for those suffering from AIDS and HIV was criticized at a recent forum during a public service ad campaign –“Who’s Better on AIDS?” –that was unveiled comparing the Obama approach to his predecessor, George W. Bush.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein characterized the president’s new National HIV/AIDS Strategy as a “laggard approach” during a press conference on July 13.

In a forum at National Press Club, the organization expressed disappointment in President Obama’s plan. The foundation is the nation’s largest non-governmental provider of HIV/AIDS medical care and its president criticized Obama, citing what he called the White House’s failure to provide adequate funding to cover costs for current and future HIV/AIDS victims.

The Obama administration plans to allocate $25 million to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, a joint federal and state program that pays for life-saving AIDS drugs for low-income Americans. .

Michael Weinstein, president of the foundation, said that the Obama administration’s plan to combat HIV/AIDS is not a strategy at all and does not account for new cases of HIV/AIDS.

“You cannot fight a war without resources, as we know with the trillions of dollars we spend fighting foreign wars,” said Weinstein. “You can’t say this is a new strategy if you do not intend to spend any money on it.”

In a press release, the foundation claimed that Obama has failed to continue the Bush President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS which has been left it under-funded.

The foundation said it supports the Access ADAP Act currently before Congress, which would allocate needed funds as part of the stimulus funding. To successfully meet the program’s current needs, the expected number of new patients, and to make up for state budget cuts the foundation said it needs $126 million.

Brandon Macsata, CEO of the ADAP Advocacy Association, has lived with HIV for 10 years and says that a bigger federal role is crucial to battling the disease.
“Without the federal government stepping up to the plate, there is really no other option because the states are not in the financial position ,” he said.

The Obama approach is not without supporters, however. Phill Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, a national HIV/AIDS think tank, said the administration needs to buttress its policy with evidence of results. In a press release he said, “We salute President Obama for placing Black America front and center in his national HIV/AIDS strategy. AIDS in America today is a Black disease.”

“The Obama administration needs specifically to report outcomes for Black people,” Wilson said. “Only if prevention and treatment programs work for Black America will we win our national fight against AIDS. In difficult economic times, it is often necessary to make painful choices. As a country, though, we need to transition from AIDS ‘spending’ to AIDS ‘investments.’”


Krishana Davis

AFRO Staff Writers