May 27, 2016 at 1:06 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
HIV/AIDS activists upset with Sanders after meeting
Bernie Sanders, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (Photo by Gino Santa Maria; courtesy Bigstock)

HIV/AIDS activists expressed discontent after a meeting with Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday because he used the opportunity to promote a California ballot initiative on pharmaceutical drugs with which they disagree.

Following the meeting, Sanders issued a statement highlighting his support for the California Drug Price Relief Act, which would prohibit the state from paying more for prescription drugs, including HIV/AIDS treatments, at a rate higher than the lowest price paid for the same drug by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We think it’s a great start and we applaud the people of California for standing up to the pharmaceutical industry,” Sanders said in a statement after the meeting.

After a successful citizen petition drive in which nearly 543,000 signatures were submitted, the California Drug Price Relief Act will appear on the state ballot in November.

But HIV/AIDS activists at the meeting say Sanders made no mention of this initiative during the meeting. Instead, they say they brought up the initiative, but only to raise concerns about its passage having a negative impact on HIV/AIDS drugs.

Peter Staley, a New York-based gay rights and HIV/AIDS activist, posted on his Facebook page he feels “used and abused” in the aftermath of the meeting, which took place in San Bernadino days before the California primary on June 7.

“His campaign should not have issued a press release implying this was a major topic of discussion at the meeting, and that there was general agreement on the senator’s position on this,” Staley said. “Anything but.”

Hilary McQuie, director of U.S. policy and grassroots mobilization for the HIV/AIDS group Health GAP, also expressed consternation with Sanders in the aftermath of the meeting.

“We agreed before the meeting that we wouldn’t go heavily into it, but that we would tell him that AIDS orgs are opposed and ask for a commitment to have his staff follow up with them,” McQuie said. “He agreed to that but went on for a bit about how he thought this was good, and as agreed, we didn’t debate it but were surprised and a bunch of folks are pissed that he highlighted that in his press release.”

Anne Donnelly, director of health care policy for Project Inform, wasn’t among the HIV/AIDS activists in attendance at the meeting, but said her organizations has “serious concerns” about the ballot measure.

“The language is so vague that we can’t responsibly analyze it, unfortunately, but what we can see is that it doesn’t appear to actually save California money,” Donnelly said. “There’s no provision in it to help individuals out at all. And it appears that it could have some pretty serious negative outcomes, including increasing the prices of some drugs, including increasing the prices in some systems inside and outside of California, and potentially decreasing access to drugs. So it’s pretty serious.”

The discontent marks a change tone from the news statement from HIV/AIDS activists immediately after the meeting. At the time, they praised Sanders for taking part in the discussion and said he made a commitment to ensuring the Democratic Party platform will include a plank on the need to increase generic competition for pharmaceutical production of HIV/AIDS drugs, such as by reducing U.S. pressure on India to change its patent laws. The Sanders campaign didn’t go as far as to say a commitment was made, but said the candidate hopes that language is included in the platform.

In response to the criticism from HIV/AIDS activists, Michael Briggs, a Sanders spokesperson, said, “The release reflected what the senator believed was important.”

Sanders took part in the meeting with HIV/AIDS activists this week after canceling an earlier meeting he scheduled with them earlier this month. The candidate, along with Hilary Clinton, agreed days before the crucial New York primary to take part in separate meetings. Clinton met with HIV/AIDS activists as planned in Brooklyn, N.Y. and called for an end to the disease “once and for all.”

The California Drug Price Relief Act is co-written by the AIDS Health Foundation, an HIV/AIDS group that has been criticized for being skepticism of PrEP as tool of HIV prevention. Exempt from the initiative are certain purchases of prescription drugs funded through Medi-Cal, which also exempts the AIDS Health Foundation because the organization is a Medi-Cal managed care plan.

Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is quoted in a report in the San Jose Mercury News as saying the California ballot initiative could lower drug prices for at least 5 million California residents.

“Our primary purpose here is to strengthen the hand of government in negotiating prices, and make clear the public ire over the cost of drugs and the lack of transparency, and that profit is an issue that has to be dealt with,” Weinstein is quoted as saying.

Weinstein criticizes Staley as a ‘shill for pharma’

In a statement to the Blade, Weinstein accused Staley of excluding the organization from the Sanders meeting and said he and Project Inform are a “shill for pharma.”

“What Staley and Project Inform failed to disclose is the fact that their work and livelihoods have basically been funded and paid for by the drug industry,” Weinstein said. “Major funding for Staley’s entrepreneurial website over the years he owned and ran it came from Du Pont Pharmaceuticals, Boehringer Ingelheim, GSK and Gilead Sciences — one of the primary offenders in runaway drug pricing and whose drug pricing and policies served as a catalyst for our drug pricing ballot measure.”

According to Weinstein, Project Inform received over $4.4 million from ten pharmaceutical companies between 2008 and 2014, which he said makes up between 25 percent to 36 percent of Project Inform’s recorded total annual budgets over the last two years.

“It appears that Staley and Project Inform want to monopolize what should be public and robust discussions around AIDS policy despite enormous — albeit heretofore largely hidden — conflicts of interest given their financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry,” Weinstein concluded.

In response, Staley said Weinstein also receives from pharmaceutical companies and would attack critics “rather than defend his poorly constructed ballot initiative.”

“Weinstein also fails to mention that AHF has taken millions of dollars in pharma grants over the last two decades, more than the sum total received by the seventy plus groups in our coalition,” Staley said. “It is estimated that upwards of 80 percent of AHF’s current revenue comes from its pharmacy chains which sell hundreds of millions of dollars of AIDS drugs every year.”

As for his entrepreneurial website, Staley said he sold it in 2006 to POZ Magazine and since then his AIDS activism has been self financed.

“Weinstein may have missed my outspoken criticism of Gilead, most recently, a firm he took over ten million dollars from in the past,” Staley added.

Staley said HIV/AIDS activists widely disseminated draft letters seeking a meeting with the candidates, but the AIDS Health Foundation didn’t ask to join the list of signees. The group typically eschews coalition efforts, then “pout when they miss important meetings,” Staley said.

Project Inform didn’t immediately respond on Friday to comment on criticism from the AIDS Health Foundation.

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

  • What does is take to be an HIV/AIDS activist? To have a strong opinion and to advocate for awareness? Then count me in. A QUICK jump over to Peter Staley’s Facebook page shows he’s been supporting Clinton since before this meeting so his claim to feeling “used and abused” is hyperbolic political rhetoric to inflate the candidate of his choosing and dismiss Sanders.

    The fact of the matter is – Bernie Sanders – NOT Clinton – wants to GUARANTEE healthcare as a RIGHT to ALL Americans. No more bankruptcy because you get sick. Sanders plans are for all Americans and would greatly benefit HIV/AIDS patients not only with regular checkups and accessibility to care and treatment, but also in prevention for all citizens who are more proactive about going to the doctor now that it doesn’t cost them a year’s salary.

    This article seems to have only interviewed pre-existing Clinton supporters.

    • **a scroll down Staley’s page will show you quotes like this one from May 23rd, three days before meeting with Sanders:
      “Finally, a new poll has been released for the California primary. Clinton’s average lead of over 17 points is slightly wider than it was in April. Nate Silver is currently predicted Clinton’s chance of winning at 98%.” ……obviously he is a Clinton supporter.

      • Staley is a Clinton supporter because of the longstanding work that she’s done for the HIV/AIDS community. Sanders never cared about this issue until he thought he could pander and preach and get some votes.

        And when Sanders goes back to the Senate to finish out his final term of a long-lived, but lackluster career as a professional back- bencher, he still won’t lift a finger to help.

    • he’s been on the forefront of this work for decades… ACT UP, TAG, amFAR…

      • That doesn’t matter to Sanders or his acolytes. They know better than everyone. If you catch them in the right mood, they’ll bernsplain it to you.

    • One comment to rule them all.

  • The reason Michael Weinstein hates Peter Staley long predated the election. Peter is a vocal supporter of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) which Weinstein is viscerally opposed to. Peter has been one of the most important AIDS activists in the US since the early 90s. He was the first person ever to mount an anti-crystal meth campaign, financed from his own funds, for instance.

    AHF have a long history of harassing Gilead and other drug companies with lawsuits and voter initiatives they have no hope of winning as a bargaining tool to get better drug prices for their own clinics. In reality AHF and Gilead have a very cosy relationship and earn a lot of money off each other.
    To quote fellow activist Jeff Taylor:

    “AHF & Weinstein
    have a long & sordid history of filing nuisance suits against companies
    like Gilead. They get settled out of courts, and lo & behold AHF
    suddenly gets millions in donations from the same drug companies they sued.
    Blackmail, pure & simple. AHF’s lawsuit has no
    hope of winning. It’s a calculated PR move for AHF & Weinstein–which
    if history is any guide–will result in Gilead dumping even more money into AHF

    In other words, Sanders and his supporters, with little knowledge of the histtory of HIV activism, are getting suckered by a viciously commercial organisation who are playing divide-and-rule with AIDS activists in their own interest. Do not fall for this tactic.

    If you want an example of AHF’s charming attitude towards other AIDS organisations, take a look at what they did in Louisiana:

    PS I’m a UK activist with no interest in what happens to US drug prices – other than wishing you had a more rational system. I just know dirty politics when I see it.

  • Friends happy me share to your friends do not hide your problem,I AM SO VERY HAPPY TODAY!!! That is why am giving this big thanks to Dr.Azimeye. I have been suffering from HIV/AIDS for the past six (6)years, i have spent a lot of money getting drugs from the hospitals to keep myself healthy, i tried everything possible to get myself cure, but i could’nt get any solution! until i decided to try herbal cure. That was how i got in contact with this great herbal doctor in an online research, i contacted him and after he had administer his herbal cure on me, two(2) days after i want for another test. To God be the glory i tested HIV/AIDS negative, (I am so glad to see my myself HIV/AIDS negative once again). I’m very proud to express my happiness through this platform and to say a big thanks to Dr. Azimeye for restoring my life back to normal. You can as well contact Dr. Azimeye via if you are infected with HIV/AIDS virus or having any health problems or Have is Mobil number call or whatsApp him +2348137229680 DOCTOR Azimeye CAN AS WELL CURE THE FOLLOWING DISEASE:1. HIV/AIDS
    2. HERPES 1/2
    3. CANCER
    4. ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
    5. Herpatitis B
    6.chronic pancreatitis
    8.COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
    10.Acute angle-closure Glaucoma

  • Join me celebrate for these great and perfect day which my lord god has done for using these great and powerful healing doctor called prophet akpe to heal my sickness HIV/AIDS which has been chocking me up for over 6years now without solutions, i have seek for solutions online, and through hospital, they keep on giving me orientations about drugs that can exand my since prophet akpe has helped me to erased my disease out of my life, i we owe you greatly for healing me truly and to again, contact prophet dr akpe for hiv cure today HIM

  • my is Dante Lopez I was infected with hiv and I was so angry on still a meet a man called dr.aze. who helped me with his herbal medicine thanks to Dr are for helping me to contact him +2348116711344 or

  • my is Dante Lopez I was infected with hiv and I was so angry on still a meet a man called dr.aze. who helped me with his herbal medicine thanks to Dr are for helping me to contact him +2348116711344 or

  • I am Lisa Becker from Dallas Texas, United States. After been in pain and sorrow for 2 years and 11 months, Dr Olamide was able to restore my life back with his herbal medicine, my good friends i have been HIV positive for 2 years and everyday of my life i cry to God as I was a mother of 2 cute kids who were looking up to me, I was on taking my medication from the hospital, I also did some prayers to God that he should do some miracle in my life, my friends this is a life touching story I am sharing with you all on net today, Few Months ago i was browsing on net when I found some good testimonials about Dr Olamide Herbs, and someone recommended that he has cured HIV by Dr Olamide, I always had faith that God could use someone to heal me, I contacted Dr Olamide and I told him concerning my problems, he told me not to worry that with God all things are possible and also that he was going to prepare for me some herbal herbs which i am to take and he is going to send the medicine to me, well after all the guidance and medication from Dr Olamide he advice that i go for check up again to see my status result and he assured me of good result, i was afraid at this point cause i never wanted someone to tell me again that i am positive, after 2 days I went to the Hospital for check up and they said the result was to come out by Friday, at 11:00 AM on Friday the hospital Doctor called me and told me that the result was out and I am Negative, I was shocked and could not believe it, I immediately called Dr Olamide and told him about the good news he told me to rejoice and make sure I share my testimony with my friends and that is why I am doing this right now, friends you can contact Dr Olamide today on ( )or call him on +2349050795277, friends Dr Olamide can help you solve any problem contact him now.

  • My name is Grace Tessy I never thought that I will live on earth before the year runs out. I have been suffering from a deadly disease (HIV) for the past 5 years now; I had spent a lot of money going from one places to another, from churches to churches, hospitals have been my every day residence. Constant checks up have been my hobby not until last Month, I was searching through the internet, I saw a testimony on how DR. Ali helped someone in curing her HIV disease, quickly I copied his email which is ( spoke to him, he asked me to do some certain things which I did, he told me that he is going to provide the herbal to me, which he did, then he asked me to go for medical checkup after some days after using the herbal cure, I was free from the deadly disease, he only asked me to post the testimony through the whole world, faithfully am doing it now, please brothers and sisters, he is great, I owe him in my life. if you are having a similar problems just email him on ( or simply whatsapp him on: +22896653960. He can also cure disease like Cancer, Diabeties, Herpes. Etc. You can reach me on email:

  • Hello,

    Finding out you have HIV or CANCER can be a shock. It’s likely you will have a lot of questions and you may be dealing with difficult feelings.

    Remember that having HIV or CANCER doesn’t have to stop you living a full and healthy life. With the right treatment and care, you can expect to live just as long as someone who doesn’t have HIV.

    “I went for a rapid test and never expected the answer to be that I was positive. I fell to the floor, cried like I was in a soap opera, and asked “who’s going to raise my children?” The tester was so amazing, so helpful in talking me down from this reaction, telling me he’d known people living with HIV for 25 years and more. I latched on to those words like a life vest those first few months.”

    “I don’t really remember much about the day or the month or two following. I do remember sitting in my doctor’s office as she told me I was HIV positive. I remember looking at the painting on the wall. I became instantly numb and everything became a blur.”

    “I was speechless, frozen in time. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t stop crying…

    As fate may have it, a friend of mine introduced me to a Herbal Doctor who can CURE several kinds of dieseases like:






    At first, i didn’t believe because there are lots of frauds and scammers online but i decided to give it a try because i have nothing else to lose.

    To my greatest surprise, Dr.RABIU NEVER DEMANDED FOR ANY FEE when i contacted him. All he did was to give me a Herbal Medicine and guidelines on how i am to take them. I followed all procedures as instructed, and after 12 days i went back for a check up, and i was tested NEGATIVE.

    If you are interested in getting cured of your own Illness, you can contact the doctor that cured me, with the following communication link.Dr. RABIU

    E-mail: (


    Doctor.RABIU will never ask you for an upfront fee payment.

    I wish you all the best.

  • I was been suffering hardshiply from HIV/AIDS since 9yrs now, and i happen to have 2 kids for my husband, and now we cannot proceed to have another kids all because of my disease and now i have do all what a human like i and my husband can do just to get my disease healed, i have went to several places to seek for help not even one person could ever help, until i melt a comment on the daily news paper that was commented by Miss Marilyn about how this powerful traditional doctor help her get cured of the disease (HIV-AIDS) ” my fellow beloved” i firstly taugh having a help from a spiritual traditional healer was a wrong idea, but i think of these, will i continue to stress on these disease all day when i have someone to help me save my life?” so i gather all my faiths and put in all interest to contact him through his Email address at , so after i have mailed him of helping get my disease cured, i respond to me fast as possible that i should not be afraid, that he is a truthful and powerful doctor which i firstly claimed him to be. So after all set has been done, he promise me that i will be healed but on a condition that i provide him some items and obeyed all his oracle said. I did all by accepting his oracolous fact and only to see that the following week Dr Ehimare mail me on my mail box that my work is successfully done with his powers, i was first shocked and later arrise to be the happiest woman on earth after i have concluded my final test on the hospital by my doctor that i am now HIV- Negative. My papers for check are with me and now i am happy and glad for his miraculous help and power.
    With these i must to everyone who might seek for anyhelp, either for HIV cure or much more to contact him now at these following email now,
    ” sir thank you so much for your immediate cure of my disease, i must say for curing my disease, i owe you in return. Thanks and be blessed sir.
    My name is jane wembli
    His Email address is: or Whatsapp +2348148343053

    My name is Mrs Jennifer Robert am out here to testify about how Dr Ekiadola cured my (HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS) i visited different hospital but they gave me list of drugs which were expensive to treat the virus but to no avail. I was browsing through the Internet searching for remedy on HERPES and i saw comment of people talking about how Dr Ekiadola them. when i contacted him he gave me hope and send a Herbal medicine to me which i first thought wont solve anything but later i gave it a try and it seriously worked, my HERPES result came out negative. I am so happy as i am sharing this testimony. My advice to you all who thinks that their is no cure for herpes and also no genuine spell caster that is Not true just contact him and get cured today Dr ekiadola spell shrine can cure all kinds of sickness.Remember delay in treatment leads to death email him @ {}.
    4 FLU
    3 V8 ETC
    5 EX BACK
    EMAIL HIM TODAY @ or call him on +2349057915075

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2021. All rights reserved.