Wednesday, August 13, 2008

No Gold Medals in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS

By Steve Villano

The past few weeks have been filled with momentous news and developments concerning HIV/AIDS worldwide, and in the United States. First, the National Institutes of Health announced that is was abandoning a major vaccine clinical trial. It was the second such bad-news announcement about an important vaccine trial in the past year—leaving education as the only vaccine we have. Then, the CDC admitted that it had seriously undercounted the number of HIV infections in the US by as much as 40 percent, calling into question its education and prevention efforts in communities around the country.

Last week, the 17th International AIDS Conference concluded in Mexico City, with 25,000 delegates from around the world calling for a full-scale campaign to reduce the stigma surrounding the disease, which prevents millions of people—in the US and abroad—from seeking the medical assistance they need. If all of these developments underscored one thing it is that the need for Cable Positive and for corporate social responsibility in fighting HIV/AIDS is greater than it has ever been in the 16 years of the organization’s existence. The question is, will we have your financial support to do the job?

The Washington Post recently published an article about the amazing Dr. Helene Gayle, Cable Positive’s 2008 Humanitarian Award Winner for her decades of work in fighting this disease. Cable Positive’s Benefit Dinner held in March of this year, also honored Insight’s Michael Willner and MTV Networks’ Bill Roedy for their corporate and individual leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Now, consolidation of the Cable industry calendar has changed the playing field for Cable Positive. Cable Positive’s Annual Benefit Dinner—which had been our single largest source of income to support our programs & services—has gone the way analog TV is going in February—it’s disappearing. Instead, we’ll be recognizing governmental, humanitarian, and cable industry leadership making a difference against HIV/AIDS at a joint NCTA/Cable Positive Chairmen’s Reception at the National Show in April, 2009—an historic first.

If gold medals were given out for corporate social responsibility championships, the Cable industry would sweep every category simply on the strength of its unparalleled work with Cable Positive. Unfortunately, gold medals are not being minted to fight HIV/AIDS. Neither is cash.

So, how will Cable Positive raise the funds it needs to deliver our programs and services to the communities and individuals cable companies serve? How will we continue to raise the kind of grant money we’ve donated to 300 community-based organizations in 45 States, touching tens of millions of lives? How will we continue to produce & distribute award-winning PSAs on HIV/AIDS awareness & prevention, or documentaries such as “Women & HIV” which Showtime Networks aired in November, millions more cable subscribers saw on VOD, and community-based health clinics around the country requested as an educational tool? How will we continue to build on the multi-million dollar investment of money and the billion dollar investment of airtime the cable industry has made in this monumental battle against AIDS that far outpaces anything done by our competitors in satellite or telephone?

In December, 2007, the Motorola Foundation gave a huge vote of confidence in Cable Positive’s work by donating $200,000 to create our Youth AIDS Media Institute specifically to train young people about peer-to-peer education on HIV/AIDS, using all types of platforms of communications. Showtime’s CEO Matt Blank and Carlsen Resources CEO Ann Carlsen donated thousands of dollars to help launch our “One to One” matching grant program to provide direct services to those most in need of assistance. Earlier this year, Joel Berger’s father Moe, passed away and left a $10,000 gift to Cable Positive to continue our work, because he believed passionately in what we are doing—some 13 years after his son’s death from AIDS-related causes. And, year after year the John Evans Foundations donates $25,000 to Cable Positive to educate as many people as we can reach about the disease.

Validation of our work has also come from other quarters. The Wall Street Journal has reported favorably on our national awareness, education & prevention campaigns, and our use of a “cable roadblock”—in prime time-- to get our messages out. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has described our approach to fighting HIV/AIDS as unique because it is both a resource for the industry and a vehicle for it to act collectively on a critical issue.” And, the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health has recognized Cable Positive and the cable industry with its’ prestigious Leadership in Corporate Responsibility Award.

This year, Cable Positive has also begun raising funds to carry out our educational mission. Through Cable Positive’s eBay store consumers around the globe are shopping to support the cause of fighting HIV/AIDS, thanks to donations of special items from NBC Universal, Fox Cable and Rainbow Media’s Josh Sapan.

With Education STILL the only vaccine available to us – and with cable television, the internet, and text messaging being the most effective HIV/AIDS delivery systems in existence – we need your support now, more than ever before. We have a great deal of work to do, and we need the resources to do it.

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