Wednesday, July 21, 2010

AIDS Die-In Outside Pelosi's Office;
Patients Need Drugs

(The picket line on July 20 in front of Speaker Pelosi's district office. All photos courtesey of AHF.)

The press release from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) about its picket and die-in at Rep. Nancy Pelosi's district office yesterday came too late for me to attend, but I still want to applaud the foundation for this important street action. AHF was protesting the lack of enough federal funding to supply the 1,800 people with HIV/AIDS, languishing and in at least one case dying while on a waiting list for uninterrupted treatment.

Some details on what happened from AHF's site:

Carrying banners and handmade signs with the message: “Speaker Pelosi, solve the AIDS drug crisis NOW!” and “Pelosi, please act as if lives depend on it - they do!” protestors wore skeleton masks, dressed in all-black, and carried a 4 ft. X 2 ½ ft. coffin in memory of those who have died of AIDS while on ADAP waitlists. In May, a person on an ADAP waitlist in South Carolina died.

Immediately following the protest, advocates visited Speaker Pelosi’s office to ask for a meeting with staff members about the issue. Additionally, the group delivered 428 letters from individuals across the nation which call for Speaker Pelosi to act now to end the AIDS drug crisis. [...]

There is no indication that any San Francisco-based AIDS org endorsed or participated in the action. While the AHF has healthcare facilities and thrift stores operating here, it is headquartered in Los Angeles and has a global reach with several programs.

If only in the dire interest of PWAs in the states with the waiting lists, AIDS Inc org here had a responsibility to put aside any differences or problems they may have with AHF, and should have turned out in droves for the action. The largest local org, the SF AIDS Foundation, is barely two blocks away from Pelosi's office, and yet their site has no info or support about the protest.

I suspect that partisan politics are at play here. It is well-known in activist circles that SF AIDS orgs are simply too tied to the Democratic Party and Pelosi to ever fully work with GOP Senators and Representatives. Look at this info from AHF to see how they are collaborating with three Republicans to address the AIDS drug problems in America:

In an effort to address the current crisis, Republican Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) introduced S. 3401, the Access ADAP Act, a bill which provides $126 million in unobligated stimulus funds to eliminate waiting lists through Fiscal Year 2010. The $126 million was a number provided by state AIDS director as the amount of federal funding required to meet current program needs given the number of people on waiting lists, expected number of new patients and budget cuts per state. Unfortunately, the bill failed to gain the support of the administration or Congress. [...]

I'm not suggesting that AIDS Inc endorse other parts of the GOP Senator's conservative agendas, or that they mute their criticism of them. However, I am recommending again that the SF AIDS Foundation and other orgs in this town put the lives of PWAs and drug access above partisanship.

Year 29 of the AIDS crisis in America is a good time for this to happen.

(Demonstrators carry a casket to make a dramatic point.)

(Chalk outlines dead people with AIDS were drawn on the sidewalk outside Pelosi's office at the new federal building.)

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