ACT UP slams chat-room surveillance as "dubious use of taxpayer dollars"
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ACT UP slams chat-room surveillance as
"dubious use of taxpayer dollars"

ACT UP, Washington, DC
409 H Street NE Washington, DC 20002
(202) 547-9404

October 29, 2001

Ron Lewis
HIV/AIDS Administration
717 14th Street NW Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20002

Dear Mr. Lewis:

The DC Department of Health recently issued a Request for Applications (RFA # 1003-01) allocating $75,000 so that 'prevention workers' can cruise internet sex chat rooms. This is a dubious use of taxpayer dollars. As described in the RFA, the project objective is to "identify particular locations where anonymous contacts occur, gauge the extent that chat rooms are use to facilitate sexual encounters, and identify potential 'meeting spots' based upon info available via Internet chat room activity." It seems that Department of Health employees have already spent plenty of time surveying internet sex sites. Included in the RFA is a comprehensive cruising guide listing hundreds of DC area sex locales, "if you're in need of some 'ack-shun'" according to the RFA.

Are we to suppose that DC health officials, after spending $75,000 to identify already known internet sex sites, are capable of following through with HIV prevention? This is doubtful, especially given that the City has failed to provide even the most basic HIV prevention information and materials to its most vulnerable populations.

At the Mayor's Town Meeting for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered communities held last spring, I asked why baskets of condoms, water-based lubricants, and educational materials are no longer consistently available at Gay bars, nightclubs, and other venues. The renewal of a 'Jars in Bars' program in the District of Columbia would help prevent countless new HIV infections, yet inexplicably, your agency has failed to take action.

Furthermore, your subordinate Ivan Torres made a firm commitment that by July 2001, the HIV/AIDS Administration would begin distributing HIV prevention information and materials at social service agencies operated by the District government, such as the Income Maintenance Center at 645 H Street NE. It is now October, five months after Mr. Torres made that public promise, and yet there is not one free condom or water-based lube pack, not one HIV prevention flier or poster, at that Center where thousands of low-income District residents, at high risk for HIV infection, pass through every week.

Exactly how are federal and local HIV prevention dollars being spent? How many people will needlessly die from AIDS because the HIV/AIDS Administration continues its failed prevention policies? Where are all the condoms?

I await your reply.

Wayne Turner

Cc: Councilmember David A. Catania
Councilmember Carol Schwartz
Councilmember Sandy Allen
Mayor Anthony Williams

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