AIDS activists are hailing President
Barack Obama's decision to appoint Jeffrey Crowley as Director of the
Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP).
“Jeff has a near perfect combination
of compassion and expertise, covering disability policy, HIV/AIDS
policy, Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance,” Rebecca Haag,
executive director of AIDS Action, said in a statement Thursday.
Crowley, an openly gay man, brings 15
years of direct and research experience in health care issues to his
appointment. He previously worked for the National Association of
People with AIDS (NAPWA) and most recently as Senior Research Scholar
at the Health Policy Institute of Georgetown University.
Earnest Hopkins, of the San Francisco
AIDS Foundation, called the choice “really good news.”
“He's a good friend, he's smart, he
goes very deep, as far as his knowledge base,” Hopkins told New
England gay weekly Bay Windows. “He's been one of the
external consultants to all national AIDS folks who do AIDS work day
to day. He's really an expert. We can be pretty assured the
administration is going to support something that is supporting the
needs of people with HIV.”
Numbers of cases of new HIV infections
continue to rise worldwide. A UNAIDS 2008 report concluded that the
pandemic had stabilized, but since then several AIDS experts have
disagreed with that assessment.
And last year, the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention said estimates for HIV infections had been
underreported by as much as 40%. The CDC now estimates that 1.1
million Americans are infected with the virus that causes AIDS.
The Campaign to End AIDS, a coalition
of civil rights and religious organizations, has urged the president
to create a comprehensive strategy to end AIDS.
“We've got to push the envelope, we've
got to make sure that people with HIV/AIDS are heard,” Housing
Works VP of National Advocacy and Organizing Christine Campbell told
On Top Magazine before the
election. “We believe we can end this thing. We believe
what we are missing is the political will to make it happen.”
In making the appointment, Obama said
developing a national AIDS strategy would be a top priority of the
office Crowley now heads.
Crowley's post as U.S. AIDS chief will
also be linked to efforts to help all Americans facing a disability.
“Jeffrey Crowley brings the
experience and expertise that will help our nation address the
ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis and help my administration develop policies
that will serve Americans with disabilities,” Obama said in a
Meanwhile, the State Department has yet
to announce who will replace AIDS Relief Chief Dr. Mark Dybul, the
former head of President Bush's controversial Emergency Plan for AIDS
Relief (PEPFAR). PEPFAR has been hailed by conservatives as Bush's
greatest accomplishment, but lacking in the eyes of AIDS activists,
who said its focus on abstinence only programs made it ineffective.
The program doled out billions to 15 focus countries decimated by the
AIDS pandemic, twelve of which are in Africa. Dybul was initially
asked to stay on for a short while but was shown the door the day
after the president's inauguration.