Has Obama Already Failed Us on HIV/AIDS? (And Will Yelling Make It Better?)
By Myles Helfand
November 5, 2010
This article has been cross-posted on HuffingtonPost.com.
Is it somehow "wrong" to protest President Barack Obama on HIV/AIDS? If you have mixed feelings on the question, you're not alone: The HIV community itself is divided over the issue.
We got a rare, but important, public glimpse into that division on POZ.com this week. POZ's editor in chief, Regan Hofmann, and Housing Works' president/CEO, Charles King, both well-known HIV/AIDS advocates, criticized one another over when it's "appropriate" to protest Obama on HIV/AIDS issues. Hofmann, writing the day before mid-term elections swept dozens of congressional Democrats from power, pointed specifically at a few recent examples (university students heckling Obama in Connecticut; Charles King's own outburst during an Obama speech earlier this year) and said that, while she agrees "with the message they were delivering," she disagrees with "the timing and venue they chose."
Hofmann went on to explain her views:
In a response posted on POZ.com, King responded that there's no wrong time to protest a U.S. President, regardless of whose "side" he seems to be on or what he's achieved so far:
It's unusual, and refreshing, to see this kind of conversation happen in a public forum. HIV/AIDS advocacy has felt stagnant to many within the community for a long time now, and discussions such as these are critical for us to figure out the best way to move forward -- and for us to coordinate and support each other in those efforts.
But Hofmann's and King's disagreement isn't just over the timing of protests. There's a reason this kind of discussion didn't happen during the George W. Bush administration, despite widespread despair over Bush's utter lack of attention to the HIV/AIDS epidemic within the U.S. Hofmann's post betrays a deep disappointment not just in the government, but in Obama -- a growing sense that he may not be anything close to the panacea that she, and many others in the U.S. HIV/AIDS community, had hoped he would be when he took office.
King, by contrast, wasn't sold on Obama to begin with. The day after Obama won the presidential election in 2008, he wrote:
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