July 16, 2012 at 6:13 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Obama won’t attend Int’l AIDS Conference

President Obama won’t attend the 19th international AIDS conference (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

President Obama will prepare a video message for attendees at the 19th International AIDS Conference in lieu of making a live appearance at the event, according to the White House.

In a notice issued on Monday, the White House announced that Obama is set to provide a brief video message for the conference, which will take place next week in D.C., as part of “[c]ontinuing his personal engagement on this issue.” Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, confirmed this video message will be in lieu of a live appearance at the event.

“The president will not be speaking at the conference,” Inouye said. “He will provide a brief video message to welcome Conference attendees from around the world to Washington.”

Organizers for the conference had invited the president to deliver remarks at the event as HIV/AIDS advocates had publicly expressed their desire to see him make an appearance and call for an end to the epidemic. They also wanted him to talk about achievements of his administration, such as laying out the first-ever National AIDS Strategy and creating more opportunities to cover people with HIV/AIDS under the Medicaid expansion of the health care reform law.

The statement announcing the video message touts the Obama administration’s efforts at combatting HIV/AIDS.

“Under the president’s leadership, the administration has increased overall funding to combat HIV/AIDS to record levels,” the statement says. “We have launched the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States to prevent and treat HIV in America. Globally, the Obama Administration has committed to treating 6 million people by the end of 2013 and is increasing the impact and sustainability of our investments.”

According to the statement, the White House will also host a reception on July 26 to honor people living with HIV and to thank individuals who have fought against the disease.

Other high-ranking administration officials are set to attend the event, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius; U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby; Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy Grant Colfax; and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

Former President Clinton is slated to speak as is former first lady Laura Bush; former President George W. Bush, who set up the fund known as U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, was invited to speak but hadn’t responded to the invitation as of Tuesday, according to organizers.

HIV/AIDS advocates had varying reactions in response to Obama’s decision to prepare a video message as opposed to making an appearance at the event.

Brian Hujdich, executive director of HealthHIV, expressed disappointment, but appreciated that the president would address attendees via video.

“While we are disappointed that President Obama will be unable to address the International AIDS Conference in person, his decision to address attendees via video demonstrates the importance he places on AIDS 2012 and HIV,” Hujdich said. “As the first president to set a comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy and pass meaningful healthcare reform, his commitment to addressing HIV prevention care and treatment is strongly demonstrated.”

Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, called Obama’s decision not to attend “a kick in the teeth” to attendees.

“It’s less than a mile from the White House to the convention center,” Weinstein said. “He’s flying back into town on Friday night. I think he’s making an intentional statement by not attending, and he’s either waiting for a better offer or he doesn’t feel like he’d get a good reception and doesn’t want to expose himself to that, or he’s consciously wanting to [let it be] known that this is not a priority for him, which he’s done a pretty good job at for the last three-and-a-half years.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that President George W. Bush was confirmed to speak. He was invited to speak but as of Tuesday, he had not responded to the invitation, organizers told the Blade.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Micheal Weinstein needs to get over himself. In case he hasn’t noticed, our president is a little busy in a highly contested re-election campaign. He has proven that he is on our side, and the first sitting president to ever vocalize nationally his support for same sex marriage.

    • Mr. Alexander, you possibly need to “get over yourself”. Seems that the president has time to got to basketball & baseball games, broadway shows, golf an awful lot. But no time for the things that actually matter in America, the econmy, jobs, and addressing the country about the Aids empdemic that is still occuring. AIDS is not only a problem for the “Same-Sex” community but for the entire country/world as a whole. Maybe he should finaly do something right for the entire world and not just his insolated world.

  • The Blade needs to get over Michael Weinstein. Not sure why they give him enough credibility to quote his politically motivated rants. The guy personally makes more than $350,000 a year off AIDS, and all we see from him are politics and rants. He’s a businessman. Don’t treat him like a statesman.

  • President Obama had to take together with his wife an official “HIV-test” in Africa and tell the nations that “…if we can do it you can do it either.” (there is a film about this “ceremony”). If he had denied it, he just would not have been promoted any longer by the “background sponsors”. He does know, that no virus exists, about the false tests and the consequences. Without this submission he never would have become president.

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