Using Washington, DC’s AIDS epidemic as the lens through which it highlights the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) failure at HIV prevention in the United States, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the nation’s largest AIDS organization, will unveil a provocative print ad, “AIDS is DC’s Katrina,” that will appear on 60 bus shelters on street corners throughout Washington beginning, June 1st.
The ad contrasts an iconic photo of an indifferent George W. Bush looking out the window of Air Force One at the devastation and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans with a close-up photo of a seemingly homeless person’s pair of hands holding tightly onto a piece of a battered corrugated cardboard with the phrase, “AIDS is DC’s Katrina” scrawled in red across the cardboard. The ad, which AHF produced after the recent revelation that the HIV prevalence rate in Washington surged past 3% — higher than the rate found in Lagos, Nigeria — also includes the Web site URL www.changeAIDSobama.org, and is intended to prod President Obama to act forcefully on AIDS. AHF is one of many AIDS groups nationwide that have been critical of the president’s silence on AIDS during his first four months in office.
WHAT: Press Teleconference — AHF launches TV, internet ad urging action on AIDS
WHEN: Wednesday, June 3rd 2009 — 11:30 a.m. Eastern (1100), 8:30 a.m. Pacific (0800)
HOW: Teleconference Dial in information, +1.877.411.9748 participant code #7931503
WHO: Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President; Tom Myers, AIDS Healthcare Foundation Chief of Public Affairs & General Counsel
“Katrina quickly came to symbolize the Bush Administration’s neglect and indifference of some of America’s most vulnerable citizens. Today, 56,000 new HIV infections each year in the U.S., a 40% increase from last year, symbolize neglect and indifference — and the failure of our U.S. HIV prevention efforts,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “The fact that Washington DC’s HIV prevalence rate is now higher than some hard-hit African countries is an indictment of how the CDC has failed to lead in HIV prevention efforts. When this news about Washington’s HIV rate first broke in March, President Obama remained silent. Despite his silence on AIDS to date, we hope this ad will prod President Obama to act forcefully on AIDS, and we remain hopeful he will be the change that we can believe in — and urgently need — on AIDS.”
Many AIDS and public health officials believe that the 3% HIV prevalence rate recently reported in Washington is actually a low estimate; the true figure, they believe, may be closer to 5% of the District’s population. Some fault ineffective leadership in Washington and the CDC for the burgeoning domestic AIDS epidemic, which is now disproportionately affecting minorities, people in rural areas and throughout the South. To address the growing epidemic, the CDC issued revised guidelines for HIV testing in September of 2006. It its revised guidelines, the CDC recommended the testing of all people ages 13-64 in routine health care settings such as emergency units, community clinics, etc.; unfortunately, nearly three years later, these testing guidelines have not been widely implemented nationwide at the same time when our rate of new HIV infections has increased 40% from 40,000 new infections annually to 56,000.
“President Obama received plaudits from AHF and many others for appointing Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former Public Health Commissioner for New York City as his new head of the CDC,” added AHF’s Weinstein. “Demanding nationwide compliance with the CDC’s own prudent, yet largely ignored HIV testing guidelines would be a great place for Dr. Frieden and the Obama Administration to start in addressing the domestic AIDS epidemic.”
AHF has also produced a 30-second companion television spot using the same Katrina imagery. The spot urges President Obama to act forcefully on the AIDS epidemic both here and abroad. The ad, which consists of still photos — including both the images from the bus shelter ad, will initially run on YouTube and other social marketing sites before running on television. The full script of the voice over ad follows:
Voice Over Announcer:
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina symbolized George Bush’s neglect and indifference of some of America’s most vulnerable citizens.
Today in Washington, the rate of HIV has surged past 3% of the population, higher than in Lagos, Nigeria, …
… yet President Obama has remained silent.
56,000 new U.S. HIV infections each year symbolize neglect and indifference.
President Obama, please be the change we can believe in on AIDS.