Mayor Michael Bloomberg refused to attend a scheduled candidate forum about HIV/AIDS tomorrow or even fill out a questionnaire to discuss his positions on HIV/AIDS. But that didn’t mean AIDSVote would sit this election out.
AIDS advocates and Democratic Mayoral candidate New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson came to Bloomberg, rallying outside Bloomberg’s campaign headquarters, in protest of Bloomberg’s refusal to state his positions on an array of pressing AIDS issues before the upcoming November election. .
“He ignored our questionnaire! This mayor is not fair!” advocates chanted, holding signs of Bloomberg that read, “AIDS needs answers.” The rally was organized by Housing Works and Women’s HIV Collaborative, in collaboration with AIDSVote. Thompson agreed to participate in the debate and filled out the candidate questionnaire, available at AIDSVote.org.
“The city needs to change. We need to expand rental assistance for people with HIV,” Thompson said in his speech. “There is an alternative.”
In his questionnaire, Thompson said he supports expanding housing opportunities for people living with HIV and reopening the Mayor’s Office of AIDS Policy, which was eliminated under Bloomberg.
Bloomberg’s campaign cited a “scheduling conflict” for why he couldn’t attend tomorrow’s forum, and said the Mayor only fills out candidate questionnaires if there is the possibility he would be endorsed afterwards—something the nonprofit AIDSVote coaltion is legally unable to do.
“I guess Bloomberg thought he doesn’t need support of nonprofits, since he can buy their votes,” said Housing Works President and CEO Charles King, citing the millions of dollars Bloomberg has donated to not-for-profit organizations. “But at Housing Works, we tend to not be afraid of mayors." The Mayor was also invited to attend the rally, but declined that invitation as well.
In fact, many other AIDS groups that were originally scheduled to participate in the AIDSVote forum backed out, citing a perceived conflict of interest.
But Women’s HIV Collaborative Executive Director Pei Desrosiers said this election was too important to ignore.
“HIV is a human rights issue. We can’t afford to have the next mayor continue to underfund AIDS in this city,” she said.
AIDS groups are particularly angry with the Mayor for failing to reform the City’s backward policy of letting people fall seriously ill before they qualify for AIDS housing. Legislation called HASA for All that would provide housing to all homeless New Yorkers living with HIV is before the City Council.
The AIDSVote questionnaire seeks answers from Bloomberg on a number of other issues including helping illegal immigrants access AIDS treatment and care, HIV prevention in prison’s and the city’s reliance on substandard SRO hotels to house homeless New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS.
The overall direction of the city’s approach to AIDS is also at stake in this year’s Mayoral election. Bloomberg put the coordination of many of the City’s AIDS services under the Department of Health, a move that has interfered with the ability of commissioners involved in AIDS policy to work together. Housing Works and other AIDS groups are pushing for the reestablishment of the Mayor’s Office of AIDS Policy, which would re-establish effective coordination, as well as allow the City’s Ryan White Planning Council, which influences the spending of more than $100 million in federal money, to operate more independently of DOH influence.blog comments powered by Disqus