Officials with the AIDS Resource Alliance of Williamsport, Pa., have written to the American Lung Association to complain about its public advertising campaign that they say seeks to de-emphasize the AIDS crisis and undercut fund-raising for the AIDS group. Kirsten Felix, executive director of the AIDS Resource Alliance, says the American Lung Association is currently running a public advertising campaign in the area that includes billboards that say, "Affects 4.5 million more children than AIDS. Now will you take asthma seriously?" Felix adds that the lung association this past spring placed a billboard with that message directly next to a billboard promoting the AIDS group's annual AIDS walk.
"I cannot overstate to you my disappointment with the ongoing billboard campaign in which the Lung Association attempts to attract attention by downplaying the AIDS pandemic," Felix wrote in an August 25 letter to the director of the Williamsport office of the American Lung Association. "Your reprehensible attempt to downplay the AIDS crisis is doing a significant disservice to the public and most certainly plays a role in the epidemic that is ravaging our community. This campaign is reminiscent of backroom political mudslinging and is unbecoming of an organization of your stature."
"Being in a small, rural community, we have enough difficulty raising money for and awareness about HIV--it certainly doesn't help when a more 'acceptable' disease resorts to political mudslinging and attempts to diminish the impact of the AIDS crisis," Felix told Advocate.com. Felix says Williamsport American Lung Association director Karen Temple told her on September 3 that she would forward the letter to the association's regional office.