Following reports that AIDS Action, a national AIDS lobbying group representing more than 3,200 local AIDS service organizations, will participate in an inaugural celebration January 20 for President Bush that also serves as a fund-raiser for an AIDS group that fights against the use of generic drugs, the Ohio AIDS Coalition has decided to end its affiliation with the group, Gay People's Chronicle reports. The $125-a-plate celebration will raise money for the AIDS Responsibility Project, founded by GOP activist and former Log Cabin board member Abner Mason and supported by several pharmaceutical companies that oppose the use of cheap generic anti-HIV drugs in developing nations. AIDS Action executive director Marsha Martin was a member of the committee organizing the event, and her name appeared prominently on an invitation that bills the fund-raiser as a celebration of "Republican electoral success."
AIDS Action Council chairman Craig Thompson and AIDS Action Foundation chairman Charles Henry in late December sent a widely circulated e-mail saying that AIDS Action was withdrawing from participation in the event because it was not as nonpartisan as initially expected. But the decision to withdraw was too little, too late for many AIDS activists.
Kevin Sullivan, who directs the Ohio AIDS Coalition in Columbus, told the Chronicle there's "a whole lot of stink" concerning Martin's involvement with the inauguration fund-raiser. "The whole thing smells of desperation on their part and shows what a nonplayer AIDS Action has become." Sullivan says the Ohio AIDS Coalition will not renew its AIDS Action affiliate membership this year, following in the footsteps of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, which ended its affiliation with AIDS Action last year, before the controversy arose over the inauguration fund-raiser. It's unclear whether other Ohio AIDS Action affiliates--the AIDS Resource Center in Dayton, the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care in Akron, the Columbus AIDS Task Force, and Planned Parenthood of Northwest Ohio--will continue their affiliations with the national lobbying group.