Tomorrow is World AIDS Day and big hopes are pinned on President Barack Obama to lead the United States forward in the fight against HIV/AIDS -- at home and abroad.
Obama is scheduled to meet with a panel of dignitaries and celebrities, including President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, Bono, Alicia Keys and others. No question -- it will be a historic discussion at George Washington University. It can be viewed live at 9 a.m. CST on this YouTube channel.
It's an exciting event but also a reason for concern for those fighting HIV/AIDS domestically, as it appears the discussion could be geared exclusively toward global AIDS issues.
About 1.2 million people live with HIV daily in the United States and many are not receiving the treatment they need for a variety of socioeconomic and political reasons. In the past few days leading up to World AIDS Day, many national leaders -- including AFC President David Ernesto Munar -- have reached out to the Obama administration, urging it to broaden the conversation to address the grim realities here at home.
In his open letter to Obama and the other panelists, Munar wrote:
"Looking to the future, it's time to retire another worn-out dichotomy: the global v. domestic response to AIDS. We need a unified commitment and a detailed plan for fighting the epidemic at home and abroad, vigorously working toward the AIDS-free generation so eloquently envisioned by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month. ... Now is the time to recommit ourselves to the fight against AIDS here at home, or risk gains made in the past 30 years. Now is the time to articulate concrete steps the United States will take to make the bold vision of an AIDS-free generation a reality."
The National Minority AIDS Council spearheaded another open letter to the president, which was signed by AIDS organizations all over the country, asking Obama to include this domestic pledge along with his global commitments:
"On the domestic epidemic, pledges to move forward on ending the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. by continuing to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) with a commitment of resources for HIV prevention, housing, care and treatment to meet the NHAS targets, reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act and forcefully defending the Affordable Care Act, including the federal commitment to the Medicaid program, with its potential to greatly enhance prevention and treatment of HIV."
(The National Minority AIDS Council, with Gilead Sciences, Inc., also created a terrific public service announcement with Wendy Williams -- see above.)
And I have to include a link to Phill Wilson's poignant World AIDS Day piece asking Obama to step up his leadership in the United States. For those who don't know, Wilson is president/CEO of the Black AIDS Institute.
Later in the day tomorrow, 1:30 p.m. CST, top Obama AIDS officials will field questions on the global AIDS epidemic and what the Obama administration is doing to bring it to an end, according to the White House blog. (Notice the word "global.")
So, we shall see how it all plays out. As an aside, if you're in Chicago, please come party with us at World of Chocolate, our most delicious fundraiser. No Obama sightings likely, but you might see some people who know him.
Do you ever feel there are critical advances in HIV/AIDS prevention that aren't being properly covered in the mainstream media? Or that there are complex HIV/AIDS-related healthcare and funding issues not being clearly explained? Or that there are powerful HIV/AIDS stories here in Chicago just waiting for someone to tell them? We feel that way, too!
At the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC), we’re committed to changing the story of HIV/AIDS. Inside Story aims to take you inside that story, to give you an intimate look at how AFC, and other Chicago and national organizations, are fighting HIV/AIDS through medical, housing and support services; cutting-edge research into prevention and treatment methods; and advocacy for stronger HIV-AIDS public policy from legislators.