Money will go to end AIDS drug waiting lists in Africa and expand access to prevention

EVENT DETAILS: PHILADELPHIA DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE HQ, Walnut between Broad and 15th St, April 1st, 2010 at 1:30pm

PHILADELPHIA- Congressman Fattah and Senator Specter had an April Fool’s Joke played on them today. AIDS activists, dressed up as Publisher’s Clearing House officials, brought balloons, flowers and a giant check for $9 billion to their door, saying that it was the amount global AIDS programs were promised from Congress this year. Antonio Davis, one of the “Publisher’s Clearing House representatives,” chided Congress, saying “people with AIDS in developing countries aren’t going to get money to pay for life-saving medicine by hitting the jackpot. Doctors aren’t going to be able to buy the supplies they need to diagnose HIV by winning the lottery. And Congress isn’t going to come up with $9 billion by winning Publisher’s Clearing House. It’s up to Fattah and Specter, as members of the Appropriations Committees, to fight for $9 billion for global AIDS in 2011.”

According to the activists, Congress has not substantively increased funding for global AIDS in several years, and people who were promised life-saving AIDS treatment are being denied access as a result.

In 2008, Congress voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize the US Global AIDS Plan. They agreed that the programs should receive $48 billion through 2013, which amounts to more than three times the initial funding levels. Around the world, clinics receiving US government funding began to enroll more people in their programs, because they believed the US government would keep its promise to fund the programs.

“Talk about a cruel joke- Promising millions of people around the world access to HIV meds and other life-saving services and then taking it all back. That is exactly what has happened,” said Philadelphia GAWD (Global AIDS Watch Dogs) founder Yetta Smith. “Congress and the President have gone back on their word to fully fund programs that fight AIDS around the world. While 70% of people worldwide lack access to HIV treatment, banks are receiving billions of dollars in bailouts. This money could be going to save millions of lives.”

The activists presented the check to local Senator Specter and Representative Fattah because they sit on the Appropriations Committee and can make sure the funding goes to the designated programs – the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. These two programs have received significant increased support from the US in the past, but because of the financial crisis, they have seen their budgets flat-line.

“PEPFAR and the Global Fund are doing important work to address the HIV epidemic in over 180 countries around the world, but their progress is hampered by broken promises. Specter and Fattah cannot sit idly by while millions die, and Congress does not increase funding,” Kaytee Riek, Director of Organizing for Health GAP, summed up.