May 11, 2016

Calling BS on AIDS Inc.

Sanders spurned meeting” shrieked the headlines on the google-alerts for two days. The news? Bernie Sanders cancelled a half-hour meeting with AIDS activists. The purpose of the meeting was to hear their demands that he commit “to end the HIV epidemic by 2025, provide billions of dollars in additional funding to support a government-backed program to find a cure and appoint HIV campaign advisers”. The drama? Some attendees had purchased costly last-minute travel tickets only to have the meeting cancelled at a few days before the meeting.

Sorry, but I have to call bs on this one. Among the players making noise are organizations that are unabashed Hillary-backers and groups that tout success as having disrupted Gore in 2000. These groups seem more invested in protesting rather than changing the cultural paradigm that feeds the stigma, or the bloated, top-heavy bureaucracy that is “AIDS, Inc.”. How many university campuses that have “HIV/AIDS chapters” that do AIDS walks and demand more money for “AIDS, Inc.” also have campus-wide, stigma-free HIV-testing programs with a goal of 100% student-body testing that would go a long way to busting the stigma? Not many. The system is more intent on maintaining turf and the status quo and often creating victim narratives, rather than pulling out all the stops to end the pandemic. This is the system that already provides a way for people, regardless of income, to not have to pay the co-pays for HIV medications. So regardless of whether you make $75,000 or $300,000, the system will pay for your meds 100%, meaning we are all subsidizing the co-pays of wealthy people with HIV. 

Why should people making so much be able to pass the buck to everyone else? Because AIDS, Inc. enables it. And these are the people screaming about a cancelled meeting with Bernie. Meanwhile, these folks conveniently ignore the fact that Bernie’s stance on healthcare and social issues would make access to prevention and treatment easier for all people, and he has been a steadfast critic of “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell”, DOMA, the crime bill – all of which were supported by Hillary and have played a role in entrenching the stigma around populations most impacted by HIV and are partly why funding is still needed. And there is her husband’s well-known infidelity that continues to be an opportunity for her to be a real champion of the importance of testing, but instead focuses her efforts on “them." It is the blatant, self-serving, pro-Hillary politicization of these complaints that is most troubling.

As I see it, if you want to seriously end the HIV pandemic by 2025, rather than playing the shame game with Bernie, look inwards to the waste (unnecessary studies, wasteful needs assessments, pointless global conference junkets), greed, turf fights, and stigma-fueled outcomes of all the money poured in to your pockets before jumping all over Bernie for cancelling a half-hour meeting demanding more money for the beast that is “AIDS, Inc.”  Bernie is not the enemy.