Midterm Report Cards
As people living with HIV and AIDS in D.C. were meeting with the White House advocates from the Campaign to End AIDS (C2EA) throughout the country presented report cards to both President Obama and local officials in order to grade their responses to the AIDS epidemic.
The results? While they gave Obama the benefit of the doubt, C2EA chapters were harsher on their city and state officials who have had years to prove themselves. Although Obama got all As, Bs, one C and one incomplete on his progress in creating a National AIDS Strategy and dealing with the global AIDS epidemic, from New York to Norfolk to Jackson to Memphis to D.C., activists doled out Ds and Fs. Better access to housing was a theme that rang true in every corner of the country.
See video of activist Shirlene Cooper explaining why housing is crucial for people with HIV/AIDS:
The center of the epidemic
Before eight activists met with Obama’s domestic AIDS policy director Jeffrey Crowley in D.C., some 100 people gathered at Anacostia Park to grade both the president and the city. Washington, D.C. is the center of the U.S. AIDS epidemic, and this protest was held in a neighborhood disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS. Speakers included D.C. Fights Back members Larry Bryant, Geno Dunnington, George Kerr and Diane Pleasant; Matt Kavanagh of RESULTS; and Radia Daoussi of the Vineeta Foundation.
The D.C. contingent handed Obama an A for hiring Crowley and a B- for beginning a process to create a National AIDS Strategy, and Cs for not beginning the process to implement it. On the global AIDS level, Obama received a C- for failing to fully fund PEPFAR. Obama received an incomplete for not yet appointing a global AIDS coordinator to replace Mark Dybul.
Last summer C2EA launched the Stand Against AIDS, a nationwide effort to secure a commitment from Obama to create a national AIDS strategy within 100 days of taking office.
The District of Columbia itself received a big fat F for failing to address D.C.‘s affordable housing crisis. The Washington, D.C. government has determined that there is enough
housing stock to house poor people in D.C. who need affordable housing and has developed strategies to increase outreach to people on housing waiting lists. However, there are no resources to get people into housing and D.C. has no strategy to address this lack of resources.
“I am HIV-positive and housing’s very important,” said Keith Holder, who participated in the rally. “It’s scary being positive and not having a place to stay or any insurance policy. We need not just housing, but affordable housing.”
D.C. Council Member at Large Michael A. Brown sent a statement pledging to do more to address the housing crisis. “I am saddened to hear that D.C. has received a failing score in terms of housing people living with HIV/AIDS, but unfortunately I am not surprised. This score must not be seen as an attack on our local government, but a call to action for us to do better,” the statement said.
New York, New York
The largest rally took place in New York, where some 300 activists rallied outside the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building in Harlem. Holding life-size report cards, clients and staff from Housing Works, Harlem United, Bailey House and other organizations chided New York State and New York City. Campaign to End AIDS member Eric Bartley served as master of ceremonies. As other participants brought up report cards, Bartley explained each grade. Speakers included Bartley, Cooper, Housing Works President and CEO Charles King, Harlem United Deputy Director for Policy and Government Relations Soraya Elcock and Bailey House President and CEO Gina Quattrochi.
The grades for Albany were mixed. The governor’s efforts to reform Medicaid earned an A+, and the boost to public assistance earned the state a B. But a plan to eliminate highly successful job training and substance abuse services for poor people living with HIV/AIDS earned Fs, as did uncapped rent for New Yorkers in supportive AIDS housing. See the full report card for New York State
New York City did even worse. The City earned Fs for failing to expand access to housing for poor people living with HIV and for the proposed decimation of funding for legal and case management services. The city earned Ds for its failure to provide adequate housing for homeless people living with HIV/AIDS and for proposed cuts to HIV prevention and education.
“The other day the mayor and Health Commissioner Tom Frieden were actually giving themselves grades, and they took credit for lowering the number of AIDS deaths in the city,” Quattrochi said. “I always thought that was due to access to housing!” The crowd cheered.
King said that despite the abysmal grades, the City government has a chance to turn things around.
“If I were talking to Christine Quinn’s and Mayor Bloomberg’s parents and I wanted to tell them how their children could improve their performances, I’d tell them if they restore case management for supportive housing, they can get a C. If they enact the 30 percent rent cap they can get a B, and if they institute HASA for All, then they can get an A!,” King said.
To read more about those issues, go to housingworks.org/activism/
Right steps in Norfolk
In Norfolk, Virginia, some 20 people rallied outside City Hall, giving the city a “D” for failing to provide any of its own funding for people living with HIV and AIDS. The grade was supposed to be an F, but it was bumped up when the rally resulted in a meeting between Campaign to End AIDS Virginia founder Greg Fordham and one of the city manager’s deputies. “He listened to me speak about the problems people with AIDS are having with transportation, housing and food, and he agreed to come to one of our meetings to see what we’re about,” Fordham said.
Posted on March 13, 2009 at 2:58 am