Activists Upset Secret Senate Hearing on "AIDS Complacency"

14 Feb. 2000

Widespread industry corruption charged as AIDS numbers drop

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 ("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 13 diaper when hospitalized. Something is wrong."

David Pasquarelli: (415) 637-4666
Michael Petrelis of the AIDS Accountability Project: (415) 621-6267

Digital and paper press photos of ACT UPs 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: