by Bob Roehr
The appointment of Jeffrey S. Crowley as director of the Office of National AIDS Policy has drawn praise from a wide spectrum of AIDS advocates. The position has sometimes been referred to as the “AIDS czar.”
The openly-gay Crowley is a policy wonk with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Medicare, Medicaid and other government reimbursement programs that pay for HIV services. That background should prove crucial during the coming debate on health care reform, where some may seek to end current HIV programs and roll coverage into programs of general medical care.
He built his expertise over 14 years working at places like the National Association of People With AIDS and, most recently, at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute.
“Jeffrey Crowley brings the experience and expertise that will help our nation address the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis and help my administration develop policies that will serve Americans with disabilities,” President Obama said in a statement announcing the Feb. 26 appointment.
It’s a “brilliant” selection, said David Munar, a policy advocate with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and chairman of the board of NAPWA. “The administration made a strategic choice about someone who knows health care above all else, so they got a two-fer; he is passionate about HIV and he knows health care systems.”
“I think it’s amazing,” said Robert Greenwald, who runs the Treatment Access Expansion Project. “He is one of the most hard working, diligent, non-ego-involved people I’ve ever worked with, just a good person. He’s incredibly plugged into the community.”
“Jeff has been one of our colleagues for many years and it will be great to have a leader and ally in the White House to work with as the President addresses the domestic HIV/AIDS situation,” said Carl Schmid of The AIDS Institute.
AIDS Action Executive Director Rebecca Haag said, “Jeff Crowley’s appointment is the beginning of delivery on a promise made by President Obama to people living with, affected by and at risk for HIV/AIDS – that their needs will be included in the health care reform discussion and that a National AIDS Strategy will be developed.”
His “policy expertise, analytical skills and commitment to our nation’s most vulnerable people make him uniquely qualified to teak on this vital but challenging post,” added Arlene Bardeguez, chair of the HIV Medicine Association.
“(Crowley) has demonstrated time and again through his intellectual capacity, advocacy and personal and professional relationships a keen understanding of the concerns of black gay men, the primary issues of the HIV epidemic and health care access in the United States,” the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition said in a statement.
The President’s budget, released the same day as the appointment, pledged “to detect, prevent and treat HIV/AIDS domestically, especially in underserved populations.” The details of what that means will not be released until April.
The pledge follows a year in which President George W. Bush and Congress decided to flat fund domestic HIV prevention programs and increase Ryan White CARE programs by only 3.4 percent, far less than what is needed.