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Obama and HIV

By Gary Bell

July 7, 2009

As with most things it's a good news, bad news scenario. Clearly, Obama is more in tune with the AIDS epidemic than his predecessor. He has proposed a budget increase for domestic HIV prevention and direct services. Moreover, his administration will soon launch Act Against AIDS, an ambitious five year social marketing campaign to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and encourage people to get tested. Sadly, however, his 2010 budget cuts funding to fight AIDS globally, cuts funding for federal AIDS housing, and fails to lift the federal ban on syringe exchange.

What people, including AIDS activists, need to realize is that he is playing with a shaky hand. Our nation is mired in the deepest recession in years, he is constantly under siege by the Republican party and he is trying desperately to hold onto a shaky coalition of "Blue Democrats," i.e., conservative Representatives from formerly Republican controlled states. He also has very ambitious plans for climate control and health care. So the question is: what are our expectations? I too, am a little disappointed but, I understand that he has to pick his battles right now.

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Transition to Hope

This year marks Bell's 14th as the executive director of the Philadelphia-based BEBASHI (Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health), founded in 1985 as the nation's first AIDS organization serving African Americans with HIV. Bell has been widely praised, not only for increasing funding and accountability at a time when HIV donations have plummeted, but also for launching such innovative programs as a women's initiative, prison-discharge planning, and, most recently, a diabetes intervention.

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