amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

amfAR Issues Call to Action at Groundbreaking Capitol Hill Conference

Policy Leaders, HIV/AIDS Experts, and Activists Also Call On Administration to Develop a Comprehensive, Evidence-Based National AIDS Strategy

CONTACT:  Cub Barrett/amfAR, 212-806-1602

  • Click here for conference video.
  • Click here for conference photo gallery.

WASHINGTON—May 15, 2009—National leaders and experts in the field of HIV/AIDS research and policy called for an overhaul of the federal government’s approach to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment delivery, and research at a May 13 conference on Capitol Hill co-sponsored by amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, and Research!America.

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U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) receives amfAR's Award of Courage from amfAR Chairman Kenneth Cole. Photo credit: Paul Morigi, Wire/

“Today’s conference gives us hope that by increasing our investments in research and marshalling the expertise and skills these experts and advocates working together, we can make tremendous strides in prevention, treatment and care,” said Dr. Susan Blumenthal, conference chair and former U.S. assistant surgeon general who serves as senior policy and medical adviser for amfAR.

“We know that a National AIDS Strategy cannot be successful unless we use all the evidence-based tools at our disposal to reduce HIV incidence,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “If this administration is serious about AIDS, it needs to close the book on the failed policies of the past and invest solely—and boldly—in those programs that we know to be effective or that show promise for the future.”

The National AIDS Strategy should focus on lowering the incidence of HIV infection, increasing access to care, and reducing the profound racial disparities in the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Frost said. He added that the government must also end the federal ban on funding syringe exchange programs, a proven method of reducing HIV transmission among drug users. President Obama’s FY2010 budget, which was released last Thursday, did not lift that funding ban.

U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who was given an amfAR Award of Courage by amfAR’s chairman of the board, Kenneth Cole, said she was confident that President Obama would honor his commitment to using science as a basis for public policy.

“We can take heart from President Obama’s pledge in his inspirational Inaugural Address to ‘restore science to its rightful place,’” she said. “Some say we must choose between faith and science. We say that science is the answer to our prayers.”

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(l to r) Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America; amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost; amfAR Chairman Kenneth Cole; U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI); Ted Koppel; and Dr. Susan Blumenthal, conference chair and amfAR's senior policy and medical advisor. Photo credit: Paul Morigi, Wire/

Jeffrey Crowley, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, said President Obama has stressed that he wants to use as many evidence-based solutions as possible. “We must follow the science to help us guide our policies,” Crowley said.

A National AIDS Strategy is especially important given that incidence of infection has not fallen in more than two decades, and half of the people living with HIV are not receiving proper medical care. Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who served as the conference’s keynote speaker and also received an Award of Courage from amfAR for his leadership on HIV/AIDS, said that the government must expand its focus on the domestic response to the epidemic with an emphasis on addressing the disparities between populations infected with HIV.

About 1.1 million Americans are currently living with HIV/AIDS, with an additional 56,000 infected each year. Johnson stressed that African-Americans are especially vulnerable to infection given a lack of prevention and care resources available to them.

Research!America’s president and CEO, Mary Woolley, said, “We join amfAR in calling on the Congress to do more than the President’s budget provides to ensure that patients and their families receive the benefit sooner rather than later of research to improve treatment, diagnosis, prevention, and ultimately to find a cure for HIV/AIDS. We know that we cannot win the fight against HIV/AIDS without research.”

The conference ended with Frost issuing a Call to Action from amfAR that outlines steps the government must take to reduce the incidence of HIV infection in the U.S. and around the world.

The day-long event, titled “Future Directions in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS,” featured presentations from a range of HIV/AIDS experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health; Dr. Kevin Fenton, director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, & TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Jack Whitescarver, director, Office of AIDS Research, National Institutes of Health; and Dr. Michel Kazatchkine, executive director, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who received an amfAR Award of Courage for his leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS, speaks with Ted Koppel. Photo credit: Paul Morigi, Wire/

In addition to Johnson and Pelosi, Awards of Courage were conferred on U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop.

For the text of amfAR's Call to Action, click here.

amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $290 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.

Research!America is the nation’s largest not-for-profit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by 500 member organizations representing 125 million Americans. Visit