MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews interviewed Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health Dr. Anthony Fauci at a Capitol Hill briefing Tuesday in commemoration of 30 years of the AIDS pandemic, hosted by the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR).
The interview covers topics from the latest scientific developments in combating the disease, challenges to maintaining federal funding, and an assessment of President Obama’s leadership in the fight against AIDS.
AIDS – in 1981 the epidemic began, many people were dying, gay people in many cases here in the United States. How are we doing?
So you take a poor part of the world like Swaziland, which is in Southern Africa between Mozambique and South Africa, take a small country like that and if they had the antiretroviral that people who are vulnerable to getting HIV would get [pre-exposure prophylaxis], if these latest developments if they were applied in the worst case scenarios would they be killing AIDS in effect?
So these world leaders that have access to the Internet, do they all know this? Seriously, this was a problem in South Africa recently, there was a real resistance there. Do world leaders note this, do health ministers in Africa note this now?
What’s the story with PEPFAR funding right now?
It’s interesting the George W. Bush was the president that led us into that area and PEPFAR. What inspired him, what triggered his interest – he’s a conservative. What led him into this field?
Has President Obama, be critical now, has President Obama carried on the fight as well as he could?
What about the fight that’s going on here? People here are interested, they’re advocates and activists. Is there a fight that’s going on in committees now for the fiscal year 2012 budget?
Let’s talk about the private sector, non-governmental organizations. Bill Clinton, I’m so impressed, my son Michael worked with him in Rwanda for five months to make sure that the drugs get to the people and don’t end up on the European black market. How’s that doing? How’s the private sector doing?
Let’s talk about priorities because you’re talking about the budget crunch and the debt fight and all of that. At the real level it effects whether things get done or don’t get done. So if you have to look at treatment here or research here or treatment abroad, how do you handle the triage?
Last year I was on a tour with my wife in Mozambique speaking with Peace Corps volunteers. And they’re working on AIDS and it’s so tricky, as you know, in a cultural setting, you might have men who are very upset about your arrival as a worker in this field. It might be in your interest not to even say what you’re doing. Now they have to go into a community when they’re assigned by the Peace Corps to say “I’m here as a health advisor.” They never mention AIDS. [Mothers who are afraid of their husbands might say they have to bring their kids in for treatment in order to get treatment themselves.] … Talk about what a circuitous route this is to save people’s lives. (This response includes discussion of microbicides and PrEP)
How many people here smoke cigarettes? In this crowd, maybe 10 percent, at the most. “No glove, no love”- these kinds of signs up in the community, do they work? The big posters about AIDS prevention, I see them, do they work?
Let’s get back to this country. We all learned about the problems in bath houses, the crazy living that was going on, and the problems that came out of it, people began to adjust their behavior and survive. Where do we stand right now in terms of risk behavior? Are they getting complacent again?… What’s the danger in that complacency [about getting infected with HIV] or that false confidence that at worst you could have a life of drugs rather than no life at all?
I want to sum up here. Tell them what they should do – let’s get to that part. If you were going to walk out the door right now and for the next couple of weeks you could get them to do what you want them to do – make the phone calls, lobby, talk, get involved in a program or something – what would you have them do?
What has been the impact of the fact that we’ve changed our views as a country – the country has changed its views in regards to gay orientation, more than any other issue. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is history. Probably safe sex is going to be in our lifetime predominant. I recently saw in a CBS poll 53 percent support the right of a person to marry a same sex partner. That is so dramatically different. That acceptance – how does that work here? Does it have a positive impact on the brotherhood and sisterhood between the straight and the gay community? And therefore caring more about a disease that in this country has affected more in the gay community?