Today started off with a speech from former President Bill Clinton, who said that, essentially, activists need to give Obama a pass on funding, because of the economic crisis. As Stephen Lewis, the former UN AIDS Ambassador, said, we're looking for $2.5 billion more, not hundreds of billions of dollars. They've found hundreds of billions for other important (and not-so-important) needs. Keeping the promise to fully fund global AIDS would save literally millions of lives, and would barely put a dent in the federal budget. Clinton also said that we, as activists, should focus our energy on Congress instead, because, and I'm paraphrasing slightly, Obama would never veto a bill with sufficient funding for global AIDS. Again, paraphrasing Stephen Lewis - this is a two-way street. Congress wouldn't reject a budget proposal from the Administration that included sufficient funding. But Congress is unable to increase funding much beyond what the President proposes. So it's on the Administration, not Congress, to push for the critical funding increases that are needed.
At first, I was frustrated by Clinton's remarks. But, the more I thought about it, and the more I talked with other activists about it, the more I realized that Clinton was responding (at the request of the Obama Administration?) to activist demands the day before, at our massive action. We have set the tone of the conference. This is the conference about ensuring that world leaders, including Obama, do not retreat from promises to fund AIDS. The Obama Administration heard us. We've put them on the defensive.
On top of this, press coverage of the conference mentions funding for global AIDS as one of the key themes of the action. The International AIDS Society put out a press release calling for full funding of global AIDS. And our activist meetings are growing, as we bring more and more people into the fight to ensure that universal access to AIDS treatment, prevention and care is achieved.
Four more days to make sure this message stays front and center in this conference.