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Black AIDS activists don't see Obama absence as snub

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President Obama’s plans to send a video — but not personally appear — at the 19th International AIDS Conference has caused heartburn in some advocates.

Some voices in the gay blogosphere groused that Mr. Obama was now only appearing at political fundraising events, or that, if he didn’t have more funding for AIDS programs, it was better for him not to show up “empty handed.”

But at a Wednesday media briefing on AIDS in the black male populations, there was plenty of support for Mr. Obama, who opened the way for the huge confab to be held in the U.S. for the first time in 22 years by lifting the ban on HIV-positive people entering the country.

“We are very, very excited that we will have a video presentation by both former president George W. Bush and President Obama. And in addition to that, we have a list of very high-profile administration representatives,” said Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute and member of the planning committee for the AIDS conference, which is expected to draw 25,000 people to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center this weekend.

“In addition to that,” Mr. Wilson said, “we are told there’s going to be a special reception at the White House with the president and the first lady welcoming people who are involved in the conference.”

Ron Simmons, executive director of Us Helping Us, a prominent service organization for gay black men, said he did not perceive the president’s using video to address the conference as a snub.

“Frankly, I’m not that concerned that the president is not coming in person,” he said.

Mr. Obama pushed through the 2010 national AIDS strategy, passed the Affordable Care Act, and came out for gay marriage, Mr. Simmons noted.

“If he keeps doing those kinds of things, he can stay in the White House and send me a video every now and then, and that would be fine,” he said.

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About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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