Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Our definition of “power”—as envisioned when we re-branded our Annual Benefit Dinner as the Cable Positive “Power” Awards this year—is more akin to the melding together of the “two great forces of human nature” which Microsoft’s Bill Gates spoke about at Davos earlier this year: self-interest and caring for others. Gates called his new paradigm for power “creative capitalism,” “an approach where governments, businesses and non-profits work together to stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or gain recognition, doing work that eases the world’s inequities.”

Uppermost among those “inequities” is the devastation being caused around the world by diseases like HIV/AIDS—the consequences of which fall disproportionately upon the poor and those without access to proper healthcare, anti-retroviral drugs, or even the most basic information about the virus. That’s why Cable Positive’s “Power Awards” are so imperative. They do what Bill Gates has urged all business leaders to do: to create a new, market-based incentive of recognition, since “recognition enhances a company’s reputation, appeals to customers, and above all, attracts good people to the organization. . .and triggers a market-based reward for good behavior.”

The cable industry began practicing Gates’ brand of “creative capitalism” 16-years ago when Cable Positive was founded, and since then, it is the only industry in the world that has donated more than one billion dollars of pro-bono airtime, and $20 million of cash to fund programs of HIV/AIDS awareness, education and prevention across the United States and around the world.

The three individuals being honored with our first Cable Positive “Power” Awards next week—Michael S. Willner, Vice Chairman & CEO/Insight Communications; Bill Roedy, Vice Chairman MTV Networks; and Dr. Helene Gayle, President & CEO, CARE—did not need any special recognition for what they have done over the last decade and longer in the fight against HIV/AIDS. They have focused the power of their personalities, resources, access, influence and talents in battling this disease, every way they know how. Their diverse backgrounds—as a highly respected cable operator, television programmer, and public health professional—have brought them to the same place of integrating social responsibility into everything they do.

Their work in the domestic cable industry, internationally, and in the daily trenches of HIV/AIDS awareness, education and prevention is what drives Cable Positive’s mission, and is reflected in some of our major accomplishments over the past year. Thanks to a $200,000 grant from the Motorola Foundation—the largest single grant in Cable Positive’s history—we are able to develop a Youth AIDS Media Institute, (YAMI), aimed at empowering youth to learn about the disease and make a tangible, positive impact in their communities—and among their peers—in the fight against HIV/AIDS. With one out of every two new HIV infections being among under-25 year olds, the timing of this initiative could not be more urgent.

We’ve used the enormous power of this industry to create, produce and distribute Cable Positive’s first feature-length documentary, Positive Voices: Women and HIV, featuring “ER” star Gloria Reuben and 6 women who are affected, in some way, by HIV/AIDS. The documentary was aired on Showtime Networks on November 30, 2007 for World AIDS Day, and Cable Positive has received hundreds of requests for airing the piece from cable systems, AIDS Service Organizations, community groups, and government agencies.

Through the work of MTV International and Cable Positive, the cable industry is an international supporter of the fight against HIV/AIDS. In 2007, with generous donations from Showtime Networks, Inc. and Carlsen Resources, Inc. Cable Positive launched the One-for-One program, an online matching gifts program that allows supporters to made donations to domestic and international ARV drug programs. This new initiative takes direct aim at the worldwide deficit between the supply and demand of lifesaving medications for those infected by HIV/AIDS.

We recognize that the task ahead of us is a challenging one, both domestically among youth and communities of color, and internationally among the people with the greatest need for treatment and care. It’s the central reason why we have expanded our programs to cover youth most at risk and have established a direct-matching gift program, to get the resources directly to those who need them most. In acknowledging our job ahead, we’ve found powerful new focus for Cable Positive with our “We Have Work To Do” campaign in print, on television and on the internet.

Cable Positive’s new series of 30-second spots – which premiered on networks and cable systems around the country on Worlds AIDS Day 2007, feature the true celebrities in this fight – people who are HIV positive and living with the disease and its many side effects each day. These spots are incredibly hard-hitting and tap a different nerve among viewers, showing them very clearly that HIV/AIDS can and will infect anyone.

In our 16-years as the leading industry-backed, HIV/AIDS education and awareness organization in the country, Cable Positive has earned the confidence of corporate leaders and the trust and cooperation of national and international AIDS organizations on the front lines of this fight. We have grown from a small, grassroots organization, created by a group of cable employees determined to make a difference in their workplaces, their communities and the world, by using every means they had available to shine a bright light on HIV/AIDS, exposing its causes, its devastating impact, its dangers, and the stigma surrounding the disease.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Picking Which Wars To Fight

There is no other, gentler way to say it, but every dollar spent on the War in Iraq is one less dollar that can be invested in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the United States.

The staggering cost of the Iraqi war--$496 billion since its inception, or $275 million per day—is taking money away from AIDS Service Organizations direct services to people with AIDS all across the country. Without such services, without food, and without transportation to clinics to receive proper health care or the anti-retroviral drugs needed to stay alive, people we continue to lose our everyday war against AIDS.

Two perfect illustrations are two ASOs in California—The Inland AIDS Project in Riverside, California, and the Desert AIDS Project in Palm Springs-- which have received funding from Cable Positive’s Tony Cox Community Fund, several times over the past few years. The Kaiser Family Foundation and the Riverside Press-Enterprise both reported this week that funding for both programs has been cut drastically under the Ryan White Care Act, the primary source of funding for local AIDS Service Organizations, while their caseloads are increasing.

In the last year alone, Inland AIDS—which serves more than 1,300 people throughout RiversideSan Bernardino Counties—had its budget cut by 30%, with a 60% drop occurring in its food program for the poorest of its clients in some of the hard to reach, rural communities it serves. The Desert AIDS Project—which provides medical and support services to some 2,300 people—saw its budget cut $200,000 despite a caseload increase of 25 percent. and

So what’s the link between spending on the war in Iraq and the war against HIV/AIDS?

Well, in Riverside County alone, according to the National Priorities Project ( taxpayers paid $718.2 million for the cost of the Iraq War in FY 2007. For the same amount of money NPP estimates, full health care costs could have been paid for 294, 938 people. For an investment a fraction of that size, people with AIDS living in Riverside County would not have been without food, transportation or medicine.

For taxpayers across the entire state of California, the War in Iraq cost them $17.4 billion during FY 2007—a sum of money which would have provided universal health care for 7.1 million Californians, or 20 percent of the State’s population. Granted, State and Federal governments choose to spend scarce resources on other things in addition to the Iraq War. But when the imbalance of expenditures becomes so dramatic that people living with HIV are going without food, medicine or transportation, attention must be paid.

In neighboring San Bernardino County—which contributed some $2.4 billion of tax dollars to the Iraqi War effort—the local Department of Public Health,which distributes federal funds to six ASOs in the region, declared that this year’s changes to the Ryan White Program are the “most drastic” since the legislation was enacted in 1990.

Cable Positive will continue to provide funds for strapped local AIDS Service organizations, either through our competitive grant process in our Tony Cox Community Fund, or through our matching grant program entitled “One-for-One,” which is already helping people with HIV on ADAP waiting lists around the country. Yet, we are one small, private funder and even though we do make a difference in the daily lives of people living with this disease, the War against HIV/AIDS is a 26-year long battle, and is too large to be fought without a concerted, fully-funded effort on the part of local, state and federal governments—working in partnership with organizations like Cable Positive, the Inland AIDS Project or Desert AIDS.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Power of a Positive Message

This week’s issue of PR News (February 11, 2008) carries a two-page case study about Cable Positive’s PSA campaigns of HIV/AIDS awareness, education and prevention. The case study examines the organization’s carefully planned, 3-year “Join the Fight” multi-media campaign of 30-second spots, short documentaries, and coordinated website messages.

The study notes that as the trend in advertising went toward using more celebrity endorsees to get people to pay more attention to issues, Cable Positive decided to wage a campaign from 2004-2007 using celebrities to urge others to “Join the Fight” against HIV/AIDS. Our public awareness spots got picked up on cable systems and cable networks across the country, in AIDS service organizations and waiting rooms in health clinics. Our documentaries of 5 minutes, 15 minutes and 45 minutes in length were aired on Sundance (Positive Voices: Matthew Cusick), on Showtime Networks (Positive Voices: Women & HIV), and on Cable Positive’s own Video-on-Demand platforms available in 10 million households.

A key element to our successful “Join the Fight” campaign—which registered more than 3 million Cable Positive website ( hits in its first year, was forging practical partnerships with groups like the National Latino AIDS Commission, the Black AIDS Institute, and the Asian/Pacific Islander Wellness Center—targeting those communities with the highest rate of new HIV infections. As our part of the partnership, Cable Positive featured celebrities from each of those communities—Rosie Perez, Wilmer Valderrama, BD Wong, Jose Llana, S. Epatha Merkerson, Jeffrey Wright and Rosario Dawson—to deliver those positive messages of HIV/AIDS education and awareness, of self-respect and personal empowerment.

And, just as reality television programming has proved remarkably successful and attention-grabbing, Cable Positive has commenced a new multi-year, multi-platform public education campaign featuring a new kind of celebrity—HIV positive people struggling with the virus every day of their lives. This new campaign, with the message of “We Have Work To Do,” communicates clearly that the cable television industry—unlike any other industry in the world—has continued to roll up its sleeves and dedicate its talents, resources, and passionate commitment to the long, tough fight against the greatest public health threat of our time.

Cable Positive, now in our 16th year and supported by over $1 billion of pro-bono cable airtime and more than $20 million in financial support, is a model of industry-wide corporate social responsibility, and a powerful case study for yet another day.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

And Then There Were Two

After 17 debates and around a year of campaigning, the Democratic Party is about to make history by nominating either the first woman or the first African American as their standard bearer for the President of the United States of America.

Last week’s presidential debate at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles on CNN was a proud moment for America. Watching Senator Obama and Senator Clinton discuss the important issues of our day sent chills up my spine. It made me proud to be an American—something that has been difficult for many Americans over the last few years with torture, Katrina, and an Attorney General who was more loyal to the President than he was to the constitution.

The two candidates demonstrated a robust understanding on issues from Immigration and healthcare to national security and the war in Iraq. But for me, what wasn’t talked about in their “conversation” rang louder than what was discussed. Through 17 debates in every corner of this country, AIDS has barely been mentioned. And it was not mentioned at all during last night’s two hour conversation between the remaining two contenders for the Democratic nomination.

Here’s why that is important to Black people. According to a November 26, 2007, report assessing the status of HIV/AIDS in Washington DC by the District’s HIV/AIDS administration, our nation's capital has the worst AIDS epidemic of any capital city in the world, where 1 in every 50 people is known to be infected and 80% of the new cases identified between 2001 and 2006 in Washington D.C. are Black.

During his final State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Bush said, “AIDS can be prevented. Anti-retroviral drugs can extend life for many years. …seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many.” He went on to say, “We have confronted, and will continue to confront, HIV/AIDS in our own country.”

The President asked Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean. But he did not ask for one additional penny to fight AIDS in Black America where according to the June 2007 CDC surveillance report, every hour of every day a Black person dies from AIDS and over two Black people get diagnosed with the disease.

Last night, the Democratic contenders contrasted the President they would be with the President George W. Bush has been. On her Web site, Senator Clinton claims she will be ready to “Step in on Day one”. On his website Senator Obama asks us to believe. “Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington D.C….I’m asking you to believe in yours.”

A discussion about AIDS is not just a discussion about some peripheral issue. HIV/AIDS is the preeminent health issue in Black America. It is a civil rights issue. It is a social justice issue. It is an Urban renewal issue. HIV/AIDS undermines Black America’s ability to manifest the change every candidate is talking about. To not talk about AIDS is to fundamentally demonstrate that you either don’t understand what is going on in our communities or as Kanye West said about one President, you don’t care about Black people. Either one must be unacceptable to Black voters.

On Tuesday, February 5th millions of Americans in 22 States will be going to the polls to decide who they want to be the 2008 candidates for the President of the United States of America. Time is running out. I believe in both Mr. Obama’s ability to change Washington D.C. and Mrs. Clinton’s ability to step in on day one. What we need to know is how Mr. Obama is going to change the AIDS epidemic and will Mrs. Clinton begin to end the AIDS epidemic on day one. We can’t know that unless they begin to talk about it. Barack, Hillary, discuss.