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Aids Healthcare Foundation Stages Mock Funeral in Front of Nancy Pelosi’s House; See the clip

from – A group of about 25 AIDS activists, health care providers and those afflicted by HIV/AIDS performed a mock wake, procession and funeral today in San Francisco, starting at the intersection of Market Street and Castro Street, and heading to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home for the staged funeral.

The event was part of a campaign by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to get Pelosi, D-San Francisco, to support a bill that would use stimulus money to pay for treatment for HIV/AIDS patients, more than 2,300 of whom are on waiting lists across the nation to get funding for HIV/AIDS drugs, according to the AHF.

The campaign also includes a series of billboards throughout the city. Commuters heading into San Francisco on the Bay Bridge are greeted just past the toll plaza by a digital sign featuring a picture of Pelosi and the message, “Nancy, do you care about AIDS?”

The heart of the dispute lies with the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, a federal and state program that pays for HIV/AIDS treatment for 165,000 low-income Americans. But the program can no longer accommodate everyone, with the number of HIV/AIDS patients growing, the cost of treatment increasing and states cutting funding to balance budgets.

While there were no waiting lists a year ago, 13 states (California is not one of them) now have lists of people waiting to receive funding, according to, a site run by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Thirteen people have died on waiting lists since 2003, including a South Carolina woman in May.

A bill introduced in May by Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., would allocate $126 million of discretionary stimulus funding to the drug program, but Pelosi’s office has said that stimulus money should not be used for that program.

Lori Yeghiayan, the associate director of communications for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said that getting treatment for HIV/AIDS patients should not be swept up into partisan politics.

“The important thing is that the AIDS drug crisis be addressed,” Yeghiayan said. “There really is no Democrat that’s stepped up.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s press secretary, said:

“Increased resources for HIV/AIDS care, treatment, prevention and research has been one of the Speaker’s highest priorities throughout her entire congressional career. Since becoming Speaker, discretionary funding for HIV/AIDS has increased by over $500 million.

“The House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee approved an Fiscal Year 2011 funding bill recently that provides an additional $113 million increase for HIV/AIDS. This includes a $50 million increase for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. These increases are in addition to an extra $25 million for (the program) this year, as well as an extra $30 million for HIV prevention, recently announced by the Obama Administration.

“Rather than trying to undermine commitments made in the Recovery Act, the Speaker hopes Senators Coburn, Enzi and Burr will join her in working to maintain these pending increases as the appropriations process moves forward.”

But in a July 22 letter to Pelosi, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein said that the extra $25 million is not enough.

“Twenty-five million is just a Band-Aid,” Yeghiayan said at the event.

Joey Terrill, who receives federal drug funds for treatment, said at the rally that there is talk in Sacramento about cutting funding from the program as the state addresses its budget crisis, which could lead to a waiting list in California.

“It’s just unacceptable,” Terrill said.

Pelosi has long been an advocate for HIV/AIDS patients, but says: “The fact that Speaker Pelosi has been a leader on HIV/AIDS in the past is what makes her silence during this current crisis so devastating.”

But a group of other AIDS advocacy groups included the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the San Francisco HIV/AIDS Provider Network and the San Francisco HIV Health Services Planning Council released a statement today praising Pelosi’s work on HIV/AIDS.

From their statement:

“While we continue to call on Congress and the President to provide full funding for ADAP, we denounce AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s plan to stage a “mock funeral” at the Speaker’s home on August 4th. This tactic is part of a legacy of AIDS activism that has been used to protest those in government who have failed to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic or have actively blocked efforts to mount a serious public health effort to protect and save lives. HIV advocates should always hold our elected officials accountable, but the Speaker is the last person in Congress who deserves such treatment.”

see the clip:


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