AIDS Leaders Meet Top Bush Officials
November 26, 2002
On Oct. 30, President Bush's chief domestic policy advisor, Margaret Spelling, hosted an unannounced meeting at the White House with leaders of 10 of the nation's most prominent AIDS advocacy groups. On the day following their meeting, leaders of the groups attended another unannounced meeting with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. Joe O'Neill, the director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, was the only other administration official to join Spelling at the White House meeting.Adapted from:
"We didn't want to put out a press release because we wanted to work together on policy, not politics," said Bill Arnold, chair of the AIDS Drug Assistance Program Working Group. Arnold, who attended both meetings, said the AIDS groups requested and were granted the meetings after finding a lack of "effective channels of communication" between the Bush administration and the US "AIDS advocacy community."
AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth & Families Executive Director David Harvey attended the second meeting, calling it "very positive and very productive." Arnold and Harvey said the AIDS group leaders were especially pleased that Thompson agreed to direct the Food and Drug Administration to accelerate its approval of the new 20-minute HIV test.
Among other things, AIDS groups called on Spelling and Thompson to push for increased funding for Ryan White and ADAP programs. Participants also urged federal officials to push for significant funding increases for the CDC's AIDS prevention programs and for international AIDS prevention programs. A Nov. 8 memo prepared by attendees says that participants also expressed concern over the administration's abstinence-only focus for HIV prevention. Thompson responded, according to the memo, that the administration promotes both abstinence and other prevention methods, including the use of condoms, in a wide range of HHS- and CDC-sponsored programs.
Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC, and Dr. Harold Jaffe, director of the National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, participated in the Thompson meeting through a video hookup from their Atlanta offices.
Southern Voice (Atlanta)
11.22.02; Lou Chibbaro Jr.