White House Updates AIDS Blog After I Raise Questions
When Dr. Grant Colfax, pictured, was director of HIV prevention efforts for the San Francisco health department, he carried a well-earned reputation as a communicator who regularly engaged via new media and public forums with affected populations. Since he's become President Obama's White House AIDS special assistant, Colfax and his colleagues have not lived up to their potential to be the constantly communicating federal leaders we need them to be.
Yesterday I noticed the last original blog post at the Office of National AIDS Policy, ONAP, page on the White House site appeared on December 19. Written by Colfax and Lynn Rosenthal, it was titled "We Want to Hear From You". A noble ideal.
But I also want to hear from Colfax more often at that blog, so on Thursday I wrote to the White House asking for Colfax to address my questions. A slice of my email:
Why the blog silence? More regular communication at the blog is needed, in my opinion. A few concerns to address include who will replace Dr. Kevin Fenton at the CDC and the latest efforts to implement the National AIDS Strategy.
When is your next blog update going to appear and do you agree the AIDS community could use more communication from you?
Late this afternoon, on background, a White House official provided this reply:
The ONAP blog is only one of the many tools that the Administration uses to keep the public informed on what this Administration is doing to move towards an AIDS free generation. AIDS.gov serves as the main portal, along with hhs.gov, healthcare.gov, whitehouse.gov/onap, along with many other websites, twitter feeds, youtube channels, and email lists.
Great to hear from the White House, but I want specifics not a vapid statement from Colfax and ONAP. What's the point of Colfax saying he wants to hear from the public, having a person with AIDS attempt communication with him, and the reply is content-less?
I found this approach of "issue a cautious statement while touting the administration's commitment" unacceptable under Reagan, Bush the Elder, Clinton and George W. Bush, and it turns my stomach to see Obama's ONAP is starting off its second term like this.
Also late this afternoon, the ONAP page was updated by the White House in the most lazy way imaginable, after hearing from me. They simply cross-posted a standard and cautious administration talking points memo from senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, about AIDS and the black community and over all HIV concerns. Jarrett's piece originally appeared at The Root.
Just how unengaging is ONAP's blog, a potent symbol of how it engages in a larger community framework? There was one Colfax-penned post in August, two in September, one staffer-penned post in October, while in November and December one post each month co-authored by Colfax and nothing from nobody in January.
Americans living with AIDS, our families, neighbors and caregivers, along with everyone else who gives a damn about HIV in 2013 deserves regular and substantive communication from Colfax and ONAP on their blog.
(My post is dedicated to the fierce advocacy and legacy of the late Hank Wilson.)