Fenty, Gray & the fight against HIV/AIDS
According to The Post poll released yesterday, the people of Washington love what Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) has done with the place during his term. They just don’t love him. If the Democratic primary were held today -- the date is really Sept. 14 -- City Council Chairman Vincent Gray would spank Fenty, 53 percent to 36 percent. Mike DeBonis did a good job tackling the love-hate thing going on between Fenty and the electorate.
The stat I found interesting and troubling was the one on HIV/AIDS. The poll shows that it’s the number three issue among African Americans (42 percent), who bear the brunt of the epidemic. For whites (14 percent), HIV/AIDS ranks last. Overall, it is the number four issue of concern. With more than 3 percent of the city living with HIV/AIDS, the epidemic with no cure ought to be of deep concern. But what I find troubling is that for different reasons neither Fenty nor Gray hits the issue with the sense of urgency this disease demands.
The Washington Blade asked both men about how they would fight the epidemic. Their answers weren't satisfying.
Fenty extolled the virtues of his now-departed head of the HIV/AIDS administration. Dr. Shannon Hader brought global HIV/AIDS experience to the battle here in the District. Fenty deserves credit for attracting her to the job and giving her the power to bring common sense to the agency and to the District’s response to the epidemic. My fear is that the reforms Hader put in place might die without a strong leader to carry them further. That Fenty isn’t focused on a replacement just yet makes sense. No one you’d really want in the job would take it knowing that Fenty could be out of City Hall soon. If he is reelected I’m confident he could attract a high-caliber successor to Hader.
That faith does not carry over to Gray. His long answer to the Blade paid homage to his work as the director of Human Services. What I found dissatisfying was that he could not articulate a vision beyond what was already happening in the District. Condom distribution. Needle exchange programs. Work with the schools to educate children about health issues. Expand the number of organizations providing services to those living with HIV/AIDS. That last one mystifies me because Whitman Walker is moving to the community health clinic model, in which HIV/AIDS services are provided along with basic primary health and dental care.
My fear with a Gray mayoralty is that the dysfunction at the HIV/AIDS administration chronicled in The Post’s Wasting Away series would creep back. The District needs someone who could not only solidify the foundation Hader laid, but also build a visionary plan on top of it to break the back of the epidemic in the District. Right now, I’m not confident that Gray would be able to find a world-class leader to run that vital office.
| August 30, 2010; 6:06 PM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: Jonathan Capehart
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