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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 27, 2005

Ohio groups resign from AIDS Action national lobby

Dayton--The AIDS Resource Center Ohio is the latest group in the state to officially resign from membership in the national organization AIDS Action.

AIDS Action, located in Washington, D.C., serves primarily as a lobbying agent for its member organizations competing for federal Ryan White CARE Act funding.

The Ohio AIDS Coalition is also letting their membership lapse this year, as the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland did in 2003.

OAC�s decision emerged, in part, from a flap over a big-ticket dinner held during the week of President Bush�s second inauguration that seemed to indicate that AIDS Action supported the current administration�s policies.

AIDS Action executive director Dr. Marsha Martin was listed as a member of the host committee, and the invitations indicated that it was a partisan event. Almost all of the members of the host committee were Republican activists, and the Log Cabin Republicans were prominent guests at the affair. It was sponsored by two large pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Gilead.

One of the organizers of the event, Abner Mason, authored a resolution that would prevent funds from the Bush administration�s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a $15 fund to stem the tide of infection in the Caribbean and Africa, from being used for low-cost generic AIDS drugs.

The resolution led to criticisms that he was representing the interests of the pharmaceutical companies rather than those of people with AIDS.

According to William Hardy, the executive director of the AIDS Resource Center Ohio, his organization did not pay dues to AIDS Action in 2004, with the understanding that their membership would lapse.

Their name is still listed on AIDS Action�s web site as an affiliate member, along with the Ohio AIDS Coalition.

After looking into the matter, Hardy sent a letter to Martin on May 19 requesting an end to their affiliation.

�This decision has been reached neither hastily nor easily,� Hardy wrote. �Rather, it reflects our growing concern about recent actions and apparent policy shifts demonstrated by AIDS Action.�

�[T]here is a growing sense that, despite its stated intent, AIDS Action does not represent the needs of diverse organizations and their constituents,� he continued. �This is especially true of those outside the largest [emergency management agencies] or those who are not AIDS Action full members.�

�AIDS Action�s biases on behalf of the largest [AIDS service organizations] and metropolitan areas are encapsulated in its polarizing recommendations for appropriations of the (presumably reauthorized) Ryan White CARE Act--regardless of the impact on many of your affiliates,� he wrote.

�Regrettably, working from �the inside� through affiliate membership does not offer any real voice, power, or opportunity to sit at AIDS Action�s table in any meaningful way, especially regarding policy and strategy,� he concluded.

Both ARC Ohio and the OAC are still listed on AIDS Action�s web site as affiliate members, while the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland is not.

Of the other three Ohio agencies listed as affiliate members, the Columbus AIDS Task Force and the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care in Akron both confirmed that they are still members. Attempts to reach Planned Parenthood of Northwest Ohio were unsuccessful.


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