Press Release Response by Cary Savitch, MD
San Francisco -- A dozen angry activists were ejected from a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing convened today to discuss AIDS complacency and increased funding for HIV research and prevention. The protestors charge that government officials staged the secret hearing and invited only AIDS bureaucrats that promote alarmist rhetoric to garner more federal funding.
The hearing was not publicized through any community newspaper or AIDS-related website. U.S. Senators Arlen Specter and Barbara Boxer, Representative Nancy Pelosi and California Assemblywoman Carole Migden joined UCSF AIDS researcher Thomas Coates in calling for expanded AIDS funding.
Activists entered the hearing, positioning themselves throughout the small audience of 30 AIDS industry insiders. As Specter began the proceedings they leapt to their feet and began chanting "AIDS disappears as CDC funds fear!" and "Corruption not complacency is the real AIDS news!" Several ACT UP members stormed the stage and held signs reading "Stop Funding AIDS Terror" while other activists plastered the walls with stickers reading "AIDS is Over."
"It's a disgrace. The Senate holds a secret hearing excluding people who aren't on the AIDS gravy train. If this is indicative of how Congress plans to conduct Ryan White hearings this spring the American public is in trouble," warned ACT UP member David Pasquarelli. "Instead of private hearings on AIDS complacency, Congress should conduct a public investigation of AIDS fraud."
ACT UP members charge that despite dramatic across-the-board drops in new U.S. AIDS cases that began in 1993, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and AIDS organizations and health departments that receive CDC money constantly promote an alarming message of unfounded AIDS paranoia to justify increased federal dollars. Furthermore, protestors say that AIDS receives a disproportionately excessive amount of funding given its relatively small impact on America's health compared to heart disease, cancer and even car accidents. Most of the money, they say, never reaches patients but is instead spent on high non-profit salaries and overhead.
As clients of AIDS Inc. eagerly anticipate the results of General Accounting Office audits, ACT UP San Francisco urges members of Congress to cut back wasteful spending and implement stringent oversight policies for the Ryan White CARE Act, established as emergency legislation when AIDS was viewed as a crisis.
"The continuing AIDS scandal in Puerto Rico where $2.2 million of federal AIDS funding was diverted into political campaigns demonstrates that Congress must view Ryan White reauthorization as a deliberate and methodical process that considers longstanding AIDS abuses," commented Michael Petrelis of the AIDS Accountability Project (www.accountabilityproject.com)."Pelosi's district received $65 million in federal AIDS funding last year, yet Tony Leone, the late San Francisco Democratic machine activist, complained bitterly that he couldn't even get a 13c diaper when hospitalized. Something is wrong."
Digital and paper press photos of ACT UP's Senate Hearing Upset are available. Contact ACT UP at 1884 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102. Phone: (415) 864-6686. Fax: (415) 864-6687. Web: www.actupsf.com.
David and Mike,
I was sent your press release this morning.
We do not share the same philosophy on what role public health should play in containing the spread of this disease (ie. I am not for reopening the bath houses in San Francisco). However, I must applaud you for exposing the fraud that has infiltrated this epidemic. Too many people are on the take to pay much attention to those in real need---both with and without AIDS. I was saddened to hear about the struggle of Tony Leone in the last days of his life.
As you may be aware, last year DuPont phamaceuticals awarded Tom Coates 1 million dollars for AIDS prevention---how much of this is now spent fundraising for more funds? Maybe you can clue me in as to what type of scientific research he does with this cash? We all know about the missing loot in Puerto Rico. Any guesses on the salaries, special perks, travel allowances of those working at SF AIDS Foundation or others who are part of the AIDS Industrial Complex. By last estimate there are now over 90,000 AIDS service organizations around the country---surpassing McDonalds, Burger King, and Jack-in-the Box combined.
I treat patients and I do the best I can---and it has never been good enough. I don't want to see anyone suffer from this horrible disease. The benefits of treatment are limited (and exaggerated). There is not likely to be an AIDS vaccine even looking into the distant future. If prevention does not include an active public health response---- this calamity will continue. Counting the dead is "not public health".
In the past year I have observed a trend --- more of my new patients being the partners of my former patients (who died). I am ashamed of myself for not having spoken out sooner. Now, when I do, I am blasted by both sides---the establishment activists and many of my colleagues who believe the answer is with more money, and the dissidents who deny the communicable nature of this disease and the need for a compassionate public health response.
I am not part of the AIDS Pack.
Cary Savitch MD