D.C. Tumbles Backward in Effort to Combat HIV; Mayor Identifies Members of AIDS Task Force
March 8, 2011
With little more than a year to go before the International AIDS Conference opens in Washington, D.C., the nation's capital is sliding dangerously backward in its effort to combat its local AIDS crisis.
This is the conclusion of the sixth annual report card released today by the D.C. Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a non-partisan organization that works to solve public policy problems in the D.C. area. For the first time since 2005, the survey shows the city declining in several critical areas.
"The role we've tried to play here is to be the constant monitor and watchdog," said Walter Smith, executive director at D.C. Appleseed, "because sometimes you can't take the government's word for everything it's doing."
The report places blame on the leadership of former Mayor Adrian Fenty, whose focus on the issue waned measurably during his time in office. It gives lower grades in three other areas: tracking data on the virus; management of grants to HIV/AIDS organizations; and syringe exchange programs.
"We think that leadership and public engagement must go deeper than appearing at HIV/AIDS-themed events," said the report, taking a dig at Fenty.
At least three percent of D.C. residents are living with HIV, the highest percentage of any U.S. city.
Mayor Appoints Members of Commission to Fight AIDS
Today, just as D.C. Appleseed released the report, Mayor Vincent Gray called the first meeting of the commission he has tasked with addressing the city's growing HIV/AIDS problem.
At the meeting, Gray named the first 21 members of the commission. Members include politicians; health officials; leaders from community and activist groups; and a top school administrator. (See the full list.)
Larry Bryant, Housing Works' director for national organizing, has called repeatedly for city leadership to refocus attention on AIDS. He said he was encouraged by the diverse committee makeup. At the meeting, "the mayor said very bluntly three times, 'We need to end the AIDS epidemic.' The people on this committee aren't part of the traditional club of yes-men who sit on a commission to look pretty for pictures."
Gray has assigned the commission a number of tasks, including making policy recommendations that would improve access to affordable housing for persons with HIV/AIDS.
At least six members will be added to the commission.
In summer 2012, the capital will host the International AIDS Conference, the largest gathering of people working to fight the spread of the virus. In the run-up to the event, a coalition of AIDS groups, including Housing Works, have formed the AIDS 2012 D.C. Community Coalition, which will pressure the city government to redouble its efforts to fight the local epidemic before the conference.
This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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