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Yale and Harvard Students Protest

Yale and Harvard Students, Joined by Faculty and AIDS Activists, Protest Key Obama Administration Advisor on Visit to Yale University

(New Haven, 16 November 2010)
Yale students, joined by students from Harvard, faculty from Yale and AIDS activists from New York City, staged a protest at Yale University today to protest President Obama’s cutbacks on funding for global AIDS programs. The demonstration was called to coincide with a visit to the Yale campus by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, President Obama’s key advisor on global health. “We’re protesting Dr. Emanuel’s visit because he has been a key proponent of shifting global health priorities away from AIDS,” said Yale undergraduate David Carel. “We can support AIDS programs and new initiatives on maternal health and neglected diseases—we don’t have to pit one against the other as the President and Dr. Emanuel are doing,” Mr. Carel continued.

Since President Obama has taken office, the US’ flagship international AIDS program, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), has seen its growth dramatically slowed. In addition, some in the Administration have begun to raise questions about the wisdom of continuing a robust scale-up of the provision of AIDS drugs to patients in Africa. “PEPFAR has had strong bipartisan support since its inception. The President and his advisors are flying in the face of bipartisan consensus and the advice of global health experts in deciding to put AIDS on the backburner, while they invest in other worthy areas of global health,” said Gregg Gonsalves, another Yale student involved with the protest.

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The protesters from New Haven, Cambridge and New York City are strong supporters of global health, but have joined a chorus of experts from around the world who have been expressing grave reservations about the “either/or” nature of the Obama Administration’s approach to this key area of foreign assistance. “Close to 40 deans of schools of medicine and public health and other experts wrote to the President last year to urge him to build on the successes of the US’ AIDS programs to jump-start other initiatives, but the President has decided that the US can’t do more than one thing at once—thus the new Global Health Initiative scales back on AIDS to scale up in other areas. We think this is a bad choice and an unnecessary one,” said Melissa Barber, one of several students from Harvard University who traveled from Massachusetts to New Haven for the protest today.

Dr. Emanuel’s writings have suggested that the provision of AIDS treatment in Africa isn’t cost effective, despite other studies, which contradict his analyses. “Dr. Emanuel has come here to have an academic debate. Unfortunately, the effects of the Obama Administration’s policies on global AIDS are far from academic for the millions of people with AIDS who will die this year because of the President and Dr. Emanuel’s misguided policies on global health,” said Yale student Jose Gutierrez, “there is no need to pit AIDS against other worthy priorities, when the costs of supporting a comprehensive approach are relatively small compared to the costs of other large-scale investments made by this Administration.”


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