Obama Tabs HIV-positive Activist for AIDS Czar

Monday, 24 Mar 2014 08:18 PM

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Barack Obama’s new AIDS czar is an outspoken activist on health care policy who has been living with the HIV virus for more than 20 years.

The president announced on Monday that he has appointed Douglas M. Brooks as the director of the White Office on National AIDS policy.

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"Douglas’s policy expertise combined with his extensive experience working in the community makes him uniquely suited to the task of helping to achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach," Obama said in a statement. "I look forward to having him lead our efforts from the White House."

A licensed social worker, Brooks served most recently as senior vice president at the Justice Resource Institute in Boston, a nonprofit which provides outreach mental health treatment and services people with HIV/AIDS. He also has served on the National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition in Washington, and was appointed in 2010 to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

He has led an effort by the administration to increase awareness of HIV among young gay black men and last September set up the Sean Sasser Endowment Fund,to raise funds for programs honoring the memory of another activist, MTV’s "The Real World: San Francisco" star Sean Sasser, who died last August 2013 after living with HIV for 25 years.

In his new role, Brooks will spearhead work to reduce new HIV infections, improve the health of people living with HIV, and eliminate HIV health disparities between socio-economic groups, the White House said.

Critics have accused Obama of failing to show the same level of commitment to fighting AIDS as his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, who poured $15 billion into a program to combat AIDS worldwide.

Obama has argued that his administration has expanded the program's scope without increasing spending.

Globally, the United States is the largest donor to HIV efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in low and middle income countries, according to a report by the United Nations and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Overall donor government funding for HIV has remained at about the same level since 2008, reflecting tighter budgets following the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

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