Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Truthout: Dems Fumbled 
AIDS Drug Crisis Before GOP Win

(AIDS protesters at Pelosi's district office in July. Credit: AHF.)

Earlier today I swallowed my first cocktail of the day comprised of Combivir, Intelence, Isentress, Acyclovir, Pravachol, aspirin, a multivitamin, and B-complex, vitamin D and milk thistle gel caps. Tomorrow morning's version will include a dose of Septra, part of my thrice-weekly dosage for that pneumonia-preventing drug. Staying healthy and alive requires that mix of drugs, and other life-sustaining elements, but here in America thousands of other people with AIDS are on waiting lists for a steady stream of the meds.

I want every HIV poz person and PWA who needs the AIDS drugs to have them without interruption.

This brings me to a story that went up at Truthout yesterday, about the outrageous continuing problem of the unhealthy and potentially deadly waiting lists for some PWAs, that looks at the DC politics at play in the AIDS drug crisis:

[Longtime black gay AIDS executive director Phill] Wilson did not mention [in a recent post-election analysis] that activists have targeted Pelosi with protests for months as HIV/AIDS patients were put on waiting lists to receive free drugs. [...]

"There is no real funding, no real leadership from President Obama, House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid on this," said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF),  "The administration spends more in two hours on the war in Afghanistan than it spends on the AIDS drug crisis that is killing Americans here at home." [Emphasis added.] [...]

We need to get a few things out of the way regarding Weinstein, especially because I'm such a stern critic of other AIDS Inc executives, and there needs to be some sunshine brought to bear on him and his org, starting with they don't post their IRS 990s on their site. AHF does share six annual reports, earning them a sunshine credit, but the 990s are nowhere to be found.

At Guide Star, three 990s are posted, and only up to 2008. For that year, AHF's revenue was $72.7 million and CEO Weinstein earned $350,454. That is one super-duper budget, but then again AHF has clinics nationwide and around the globe, and Weinstein's salary is quite robust, yet might be seen by some as low given the strong budget numbers.

Weinstein needs to get with meeting what I am now calling the Kendell Standard, so named for Kate Kendell of the National Center for Lesbian Rights who recently agreed, at my urging, to post her org's three most recent IRS 990 filings. To meet the Kendell Standard, AHF must quickly post their new 2009 tax filing, along with at least two additional years' worth, or more, if they so choose as they do with their annual reports. Now, back to the Truthout article.

After months of staging protests in Pelosi's district, which I have praised and blogged on, I'm pleased to see Weinstein keeping up the drumbeat for full funding of ADAP needs, and stepping on Democratic Party toes. Not only that, but he also deserves kudos for putting the AIDS drug crisis in the context of the nation's budget for the war on Afghanistan.

If there's another AIDS Inc executive, or one from Gay Inc, offering up such contextual statements, please lemme know who they are because they need to be singled out for speaking up like this.

Truthout quotes an AIDS lobbyist I've never heard of, but he's critical of the Democrats and praises GOP leaders:

Brandon Macsata, CEO of the ADAP Advocacy Association (AAA+), told Truthout that the additional $25 million is already exhausted, and party politics has kept Congress from putting an end to the waiting lists. [...] Macsata said the Democrats argued for an emergency supplemental, while deficit-weary Republicans wanted to dip into existing funds. [...] But Macsata said its going to take at least $375 million to get ADAP back on track, and allocating money for 2011 does nothing for the current crisis. [...]

Did I miss statements from Pelosi since the election about her plans to solve this damn ADAP crisis? I'd like to hear from her about how she and her colleagues are going to address the crisis, and when. 
Regarding Macsata and his org, Richard Jefferys of the Treatment Action Group shared some background info on the lobbyist, his operations and at least one of his political clients:

I'd respectfully suggest bearing in mind the client list of the Macsata-Kornegay Group in the context of this article, all their political clients appear to be Republican including Sharron Angle who opposed Harry Reid: http://macsata-kornegay.org/clients.htm

According the ADAP Advocacy Association website, "All management functions are provided by The Macsata-Kornegay Group, Inc. The Organizing Committee engaged Brandon M. Macsata, Managing Partner as the CEO of the organization charged with all facets of its administration, funding, management and marketing."


The AIDS drug supply issues are a very tangled web of politics, Big Pharma, AIDS Inc, the bodies of HIV poz folks and PWAs, and huge amounts of money are involved. Let's keep our eyes on the needs of the HIV infected folks first and foremost and solve the ADAP crisis this year.


Anonymous said...

Michael - I enjoyed reading your blog. Since you reference me and my firm (The Macsata-Kornegay Group, Inc.) by name, I felt a reply was warranted. My criticism of the Democrats - mainly Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid - boils down to one simple fact: They control the legislative process and the Democrats have enjoyed super majorities for two full years! Republicans clearly share some of the blame, as earlier this year when Rep. Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) was trying to secure $126 million in emergency supplemental funding, only ONE Republican (Rep. Joseph Cao of Louisiana) endorsed her Dear Colleague Letter. But the fact remains, Republicans do NOT control the process...that is totally in the hands of the Democrats. Rest assured that once the 112th Congress is sworn into office, if the GOP-led House follows a similar path, I will continue to be equally vocal. I don't see being critical of our leaders on HIV/AIDS as a partisan issue, unlike some of my colleagues who tend to support only one party and criticize the other party! I would hope that you agree.

With respect to my firm, it is also worth nothing that we have represented some of the most notable health care, disability and HIV-specific nonprofits in the industry...and always providing our services well-below "market" value...and often times on a pro-bono basis. Richard Jefferys failed to mention that important piece on information in his rant.

Finally, I see no need to defend our firm's work for Sharron Angle when her opponent did little, in fact he did nothing, to help people living with HIV/AIDS during the ADAP crisis, not to mention selling out the LGBT community on several other issues.

Last I recall, when I tested HIV-positive the virus didn't ask me for my party affiliation. I fight for PLWHAs regardless of their political views, and I'm willing to work with - or criticize - members of both political parties.

I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to clarify a fews things, and would welcome the opportunity one day to sit and exchange war stories. Thanks. Brandon

Michael said...

hi brandon,

nice to hear from you and i'm happy to share your follow up thoughts. i'm trying to keep the ADAP crisis on the agenda here in SF, where so many leaders of AIDS Inc are more interested in protecting pelosi than in pushing her to solve the drug crisis. it's a mark of shame that the democrats, who have controlled congress for the past few years, not to mention the dem president, and aids leaders cannot keep PWAs in all states supplied with drugs. let's see if the crisis is ended by the end of 2010.

Anonymous said...

Michael - I get to SF a couple times a year usually, so hopefully we can grab coffee or a cocktail! I would love to meet you and talk about HIV, as well as LGBT issues!

Michael said...

hey brandon,

lemme know when you're in town and we'll get together for some hiv and gay talk. and until then, you can always email me.

Anonymous said...

The truth about Michael Weinstein: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9MOWF94_II

Michael said...

hi michael whitacre,

thanks for bringing your perspective on AHF and weinstein to my attention, and for creating at video at youtube. there are many facets to the AHF org and you've reminded me of some of them, like the viagra campaign. keep pumping out the info and videos!

Michael Whiteacre said...

Actually, it was not me who posted my AHF video -- I was pointed to this website today by a google search -- but I'm glad you found it worthwhile. There's much valuable information here as well, and I'm going through it...

Public health issues make strange bedfellows. I attended a panel on "Condoms in the Adult Film Industry" this week at UCLA School Of Law, and it was very revealing. Whitney Engeran-Cordova (Director of AHF's Public Health Division), UCLA's Paula Tavrow and LA County Dept of Public Health's Peter Kerndt sat shoulder to shoulder with a woman named Shelley Lubben.

Lubben is essentially like Norman Beale in "Network": a sick, deranged person being exploited by others for their own (political and financial) gain. This is a shameful act of expedience on their part, for reasons I'll point out. To me, expedience is defined as "pissing in your boots to keep your feet warm."

Mrs. Lubben believes that gay people need to be cured of their homosexuality. She mentioned God performing miracles in one of her speeches about ministering to prisons in the past, and one of those blessed miracles was “gays turning straight.” Lubben, who has been hearing voices since she was 7 (Jesus visited and told her someday she would be famous) also admits to having been diagnosed as bipolar, but says God cured her of her illnesses (and thus, presumably, she no longer takes the lithium and zoloft she was prescribed). She also claims that God miraculously cured her of her herpes: "God told me He healed me."

My point is, AHF, UCLA, and entities created to foster public health and serve the public interest have aligned themselves with this fanatic. At UCLA they cited her (STD and porn-related) claims and rants approvingly. There were medical professionals on this panel! No one said a word.

Public Health is a sphere in which medicine and economics intersect, and I am more certain than ever that most of what we see going on in the debate today is centered on the fight over grant dollars.