PROTESTERS ROCK CONGRESSIONAL HEARING ON AIDS
Panel focuses on public complacency
about the disease
By Justino Aguila
SF Examiner 15 Feb. 2000
A congressional hearing to explore why the
American public is growing complacent about
AIDS was interrupted by angry members of the
militant gay group ACT UP, who demanded to
know how federal funds were being spent on the
"Why do you keep funding AIDS?" about a half
dozen ACT UP members shouted as they barged
into Monday's hearing inside the Hiram Johnson
Office building at 455 Golden Gate Ave. holding
signs that read, "Stop funding AIDS terror!"
The joint House-Senate hearing was sponsored by
the health subcommittee of the Senate
Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. Arlen
Specter, R-Pa., who insisted on giving the activists
an opportunity to speak.
"AIDS is over," shouted Ronnie Burk, 45, who said
he's HIV-positive. Others chanted similar phrases.
Outside, Burk and his counterparts said they want a
better accountability of federal HIV and AIDS
funding. Too often, they added, money ends up in
salaries instead providing people with basic services
like food, housing and clothing.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who was part
of the hearing, said the protesters are sending the
"Anyone that goes around saying there's no AIDS is
doing a disservice," Boxer said during the hearing.
She added that she was hopeful that future federally
funded programs would reverse the nation's
growing complacency about
Dorothy Mann, a board member of AIDS Alliance
for Children, Youth & Families, called for new
strategies and funding as a way to focus attention
again on the disease.
"We have focused HIV prevention efforts almost
exclusively on uninfected people," Mann said. "We
have largely ignored those who are already
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, who has
pushed for increased federal funding for AIDS and
HIV prevention, told the panel that one way to get
people's attention again is to talk explicitly about
"We (in San Francisco) have been a model for
responding to this epidemic," Pelosi said.
"Prevention has to be very frank."
Statistics from the San Francisco Department of
Public Health's AIDS Office show The City has the
highest rate of total AIDS cases per 100,000
residents in the United States. More than 15,000
people in San Francisco have the HIV virus,
according to recent reports.
Assemblywoman Carol Migden pointed to the need
to keep interest high in fighting AIDS.
"We have gone a long way over the last decade in
educating some segments of society about AIDS,
but recently we have come to understand that new
and differing populations of people are becoming
high risk for HIV infection," she said.