Sunday, March 28, 2010

Obama AIDS Plan: Ready by
Midterm Elections or 2011?

(President Obama meets with HIV/AIDS adviser Jeff Crowley in the Oval Office. A photo-op is not a plan, Mr. President. Photo credit: The White House.)

If, and that's a big if, we're lucky, people living with HIV/AIDS and the rest of the American public will have a National AIDS Strategy from President Obama before the year is finished.

Over at the AIDS Inc-run site for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, in a post with a headline about the development of it entering a supposed final stretch, we get a sense of the lazy timeline at work here:

ONAP [Office of National AIDS Policy in the White House] aims to finalize the Strategy by this summer. [ONAP director Jeff] Crowley pledged to host a meeting with community stakeholders to present the major themes under consideration by ONAP for inclusion in the Strategy before making final recommendations to President Obama. Only after the President has authorized the final Strategy will ONAP make its final Strategy publicly available.

The operative word is "aims." Should Crowley get Obama a draft of the plan by, say, the 4th of July or maybe Labor Day, I don't expect the President to then quickly sign off on it, not with the mid term elections soon to happen. It troubles me that in year 29 of the AIDS epidemic, our President and his advisers have not only failed to produce a strategy, but they have also not publicly committed to a hard timeline they will follow to produce it.

Bear in mind that with the administration restoring $250 million to abstinence programs recently, a clear signal of support for flat-earth, conservative approaches to HIV and pregnancy prevention was sent, and it doesn't bode well for innovative thinking on AIDS issues.

If a best-case scenario plays out and Crowley meets his "aims" in the summer, we might be fortunate and witness the White House implementing the National AIDS Strategy by the end of 2010. Sure, it will be good to finally have the strategy guiding America's response to AIDS as 2011 dawns, but half of Obama's first-term will be over by then.

We are quite far from the final stretch, and I hope the groups and activists that have poured so much time and energy into developing the National AIDS Strategy make a ruckus about this procrastination from the Obama administration. Let's not give Obama a free ride on domestic AIDS concerns.

The ONAP blog reminds us:

Although the United States has among the worst HIV epidemics among industrialized nations, the US has never adopted a coordinated nationwide response to address the epidemic.

The HIV clock is ticking, Mr. President, and the lives and needs of people with AIDS need your leadership -- now. We needed a coordinated plan in 2009. No more delays!

1 comment:

Andy Thayer said...

Okay, so we MIGHT have a plan by year-end, if then? Maybe by the half-way point of his term?

Incredible. It's not like issues like needle exchanges, scientific age-appropriate sex ed, etc haven't already been studied to death. Whatever happened to "plans" for long-established problems of this sort being established as part of campaign platforms and during inter-administration transition periods? Or is each incoming administration as clueless as they pretend to be?

Andy Thayer