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2002-08-20

U.S. Health Department Launches a Witchhunt Against AIDS Activist Groups

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The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Department of Health and Human Services has begun a review of more than a dozen prominent AIDS service organizations whose members joined in a noisy demonstration against Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson at last month’s international AIDS conference in Barcelona. All of these organizations currently receive government funding.

HHS officials said they launched the reviews at the request of 12 members of Congress, who also said they were upset by the absence of religious themes at the meeting.

Many of the targeted groups provide services to AIDS patients through government contracts but they also are very vocal activists.

Tommy Thompson was heckled on the third day of the weeklong conference when he delivered a speech on the U.S. government’s overseas AIDS activities. Protesters blew whistles, chanted "Shame, Shame," rhythmically jabbed their fingers and eventually surrounded Thompson on the stage. He read his address to the end but his remarks were entirely inaudible. Handouts in both English and Spanish criticized the government for not spending enough on care and treatment of people infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in poor countries. At the bottom of the flier was a list of 12 organizations.

On July 17, five days after the end of the conference, a letter signed by 12 members of Congress asked Thompson to provide "the total amount of U.S. federal assistance" that went to the AIDS conference. It also asked: "How many individuals — from both the government and non-government organizations — attended the conference with some form of federal assistance? Please provide a complete list of these individuals and their affiliations."

Guest:

  • Ana Oliveira, is the Executive Director of Gay Men’s Health Crisis. She is the first woman to run the organization. Call 1-800-AIDS-NYC (1-800-243-7692); In New York City: (212) 807-6655.

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