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XBiz, FSC, AIM Have Company; AIDS Healthcare Foundation Now Going After Nancy Pelosi

Michael Weinstein must have a hat with names on slips of paper determining who’s going to be guest of honor at the next protest rally.

SAN FRANCISCO – Scores of AIDS advocates are expected to participate in a protest and mock “funeral procession”, spearheaded by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), on Wednesday, August 4th to urge Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi to end the national AIDS drug crisis.

Protestors will stage a mock “wake” at the intersection of Market and Castro Streets at 10:00 AM, followed by a mock “funeral procession” through the streets of San Francisco to Pelosi’s home (2640 Broadway St.), where a “funeral” will be held at 11:00 AM. More than 2,100 people in thirteen states are now on waiting lists to receive lifesaving AIDS medications through ADAP. The “funeral” theme is to represent the thirteen people who have died while on ADAP waiting lists since 2003.

After last month’s “die-in” protest in front of Pelosi’s San Francisco office, AHF has stepped up its campaign targeting the Speaker with an ad now appearing on San Francisco billboards and subway platforms featuring a photo of Pelosi and the question “Nancy, Do You Care About AIDS?” The image will also appear as a full-page ad in the August 5th issue of the Bay Area Reporter.

WHAT: PROTEST & Mock “Funeral Procession” to Speaker Pelosi’s Home

WHEN/WHERE:WEDNESDAY, August 4th 10:00 AM—

“Wake” at Intersection of Market and Castro, followed by “funeral procession”

11:00 AM— “Funeral” at Home of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, 2640 Broadway St., San Francisco, CA 94115

WHO: People living with HIV/AIDS, AIDS advocates, Health care providers, Community leaders

B-ROLL: Mock wake, procession (including hearse) and funeral; Protestors dressed as “mourners” wearing all black (and some with skeleton masks to represent the dead) carrying a 4 ft. X 2 ½ ft. coffin

Background: In a letter sent to Speaker Pelosi last week—the second AHF letter since July—Michael Weinstein, President of AHF, states: “AHF again requests your immediate action to resolve the ADAP funding crisis that has left thousands of Americans without access to lifesaving AIDS treatment. The crisis is only growing as many larger ADAPs are forced to stop providing treatment to new and existing patients.”

The letter continues: “We previously came to your office in San Francisco to protest your refusal to lead on this issue. We need you. Sadly, no national Democratic leader has yet made this crisis a priority even though the number of patients who are getting hurt grows daily.

“Madam Speaker, we request a face to face meeting with you at your earliest convenience to discuss this matter. Wherever and whenever, we will be there. We are committed to continuing the process of making you and everyone in San Francisco aware of this issue and the lack of a solution. Until this is resolved, whether at your office, in advertising, on the streets, or even in your own neighborhood, we are compelled to continue to peacefully press our case with you.”

In an effort to address the current crisis, Republican Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) introduced S. 3401, the Access ADAP Act, a bill which provides $126 million in unobligated stimulus funds to eliminate waiting lists through Fiscal Year 2010. The $126 million was a number provided by state AIDS director as the amount of federal funding required to meet current program needs given the number of people on waiting lists, expected number of new patients and budget cuts per state. Unfortunately, the bill failed to gain the support of the administration or Congress.

The Obama administration has allocated $25 million, stating it will be sufficient to respond to the current and projected need through the end of Fiscal Year 2010. However, this amount neglects to take into account future uncertainty regarding budget cuts and the rate at which waiting lists are growing. Given that the cost to provide AIDS medications is roughly $10,000 per patient, per year—the $25 million in additional funding would barely be enough to cover the 2,291 currently on waiting lists.

To address the situation, advocates are requesting that the Speaker take action by forcefully advocating for and securing the appropriation for the full $126 million. The Speaker could introduce and steer through the House the Access ADAP Act (S. 3401), which would provide $126 million in unobligated stimulus funds to eliminate the ADAP waiting lists and enable these programs to serve new patients.

“Speaker Pelosi has remained silent while this crisis continues to worsen,” said Jessie Gruttadauria, Director of Public Affairs for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “As Speaker of the House and representative of a district historically hard-hit by AIDS, it is our hope that Speaker Pelosi will now step in and lead the way toward a solution, doing what is necessary to protect Americans with AIDS who need her help.”

Added Gruttadauria: “Unfortunately, if the Speaker continues to do nothing, thousands may become sick and die while waiting to receive the AIDS medications they need.”

“Nancy, Do You Care About AIDS?” billboard locations: Bay Bridge Digital Unit (reading to traffic coming into San Francisco); Lombard and Webster 18×14 Wallscape (reading to commuters heading into Marin County via the Golden Gate Bridge); 30-sheet located on Polk & California; and, subway platform banners in Civic Center Station and Castro Station.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and services to more than 139,000 individuals in 23 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific region and Eastern Europe.

AHF operates two Magic Johnson Healthcare Centers in San Francisco and in Oakland; provides outreach services, and, in conjunction with the CDC and Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center; offers HIV testing at five locations; operates two AHF Pharmacy locations; and operates five Out of the Closet Thrift Stores. Ninety-six cents of every dollar earned by Out of the Closet and AHF Pharmacy goes right back to providing HIV/AIDS prevention, testing and care services.


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