Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Clinton gets people to care about AIDS
Over the past several years, Bill Clinton has been crafting his post-presidency initiatives. I always thought that would be an amazing thing to think about. After retiring as "leader of the free world," you get to set your sights on just about anything, presumably things that fascinated you most as president, and areas where you feel you can make a difference. He chose two health-care related areas for much of his focus - AIDS and childhood obesity. He told me he chose obesity because of his own struggles with weight, especially as a child. Also, because the obesity epidemic threatens, for the first time ever, to turn back our steadily progressing life span. Stunning.

Yesterday, the former president gave me an exclusive interview to talk about AIDS and a sprinkle of current presidential politics. The success of the foundation has been pretty concrete, by just about anyone's standards. In a day where AIDS achievements are measured by advocacy groups with the loudest voice, the Clinton Foundation has been instead busy negotiating lower drug prices. Thanks in large part to its efforts, those prices are now less than a dollar a day, admittedly still expensive in an area of the world where the per capita income on averages around $800 a year, but still cheaper than ever. Also, the pills are a once daily, very effective medication that offers the real possibility of a normal length of life. President Clinton seemed genuinely pleased with the achievement and was already planning trips back to Africa this summer.

As far as presidential politics go though, the success of Hillary Clinton could truly be a case of good news/bad news for the Clinton foundation. Certainly, as "first gentleman," the former president would be in a position to do many of the things Mrs. Clinton worked on as first lady. Still, it would to some extent take him away from what he has called his life's work, AIDS.

One thing former President Clinton has done is he has kept AIDS squarely in the public eye. Even at a time when our attention has been focused on a million other things, his steady voice still reminds us that HIV/AIDS remains one of the biggest killers in the world. Still, even he has a hard time getting people in the United States to care.

If you had a few minutes with Bill Clinton, what strategies would you offer him to get and keep people engaged on the issue of AIDS?
Hi Dr. Gupta,
What strategies would I offer him to keep people engaged on the issue of AIDS? I actually sat here for a good ten minutes trying to figure that out, and an answer was not coming easily to me.

So I focused instead on what was DIS-engaging them in the first place- lack of personalization. Basically, if something isn't affecting someone directly, they don't think about it. Just looking at pictures or videos doesn't seem to cut it either. I would suggest to him that he figure out a way to show people how it is affecting them and why it IS a big deal even though they don't realize it, and that even though they can't feel it, it's hurting them. Maybe then, they might start to care.

This is harder than I thought. Would I want to be in charge of thinking this sort of stuff up? NO, thanks.
If I could be honored enough to share a few minutes with the greatest president of "my" lifetime, Bill Clinton, I would ask him to not forget that Black and Hispanic America are being ravaged by HIV/AIDS, and it seems like there is no sense of urgency in fixing this problem here.

The medicines, and having access to the medicines for people in other parts of the world are great, but there are many people here that don't know about the access to the medicines right here in the USA. There needs to be some sort of psychological treatments put into place as well. It is very important that the mind-body connection be kept in the forefront of treatment.

Also, infected people need to be protected better in their current jobs, and when applying for new jobs. People need to get to sense of normalcy when dealing with this disease, and the prospect of having something to do everyday is important.

Infected people here in this country, and throughout the world should also be made to feel less human by people, and afforded the ability to come out and talk about their illness to the public, particularly the youth. I lived through this in the onset, and many of my friends died before my eyes. This isn't happening like it was in the beginning. This is now considered by many, even in the medical profession, as a manageable-lifetime infection. But it isn't looked at like diabetes, or high-blood pressure, it is far worse, because it shuts the doors to so many possibilities in your life. And people have a hard time really seeing the opportunities that this may present.

I hope that Hillary wins, not just because I think that she is a great leader and strong, and because maybe I am sentimental to the good days when the White House operated with sense and in reality, but because I think that the pair of them...that team, could continue a good thing, and I think the entire world would "get it" this time. After this Bush, after Cheney, I know there is so much to do. I couldn't imagine a better team to fix what we know is broken. I couldn't think of a better team to fix what we don't know is broken yet.
Hi Dr. Gupta~
I don't think that Bill Clinton needs our help planning strategies. He does that very well on his own!
I think he is awesome because he cares! He is doing a spectacular job keeping AIDS in the public eye. He Rocks! And so do you!
A consortion of nations to buy anti-AIDS drugs in bulk (giving the drug companies a small profit.) Weave a distribution system of NGOs (internationally funded to provide mobile clinics.) Government agencies' personnel often end up selling the drugs or cornering them for family and friends. Recipient Criteria: First to adults with children -- without parents they will die. Then adults without children. Then children past the age of dying from malaria and measles. Harsh laws for foreign or host country men and women who spread AIDS indiscriminantly: murder charge then public execution if found guilty. Linda A. Buggeln. Reston, VA.
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