Michael Jackson Brings Needed Attention to HIV/AIDS Crisis, Columnist Says
Although seeing pop star Michael Jackson meet with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, D.C., to discuss HIV/AIDS was "odd," it is difficult to determine "which side is taking a bigger risk to its reputation," syndicated columnist Clarence Page writes in a Baltimore Sun opinion piece (Page, Baltimore Sun, 4/7). While in Washington last month to receive an award from the African Ambassadors' Spouses Association for his work on HIV/AIDS, Jackson met with several CBC members to discuss the HIV/AIDS pandemic and a proposed trip to Africa later this year. Jackson has proposed heading a trip to Africa to better leverage his celebrity status and bring attention to the pandemic. However, his ability to travel depends on his court requirements in California; Jackson is awaiting trial in Santa Barbara for nine counts of lewd acts with a child and administering an intoxicant to a minor to facilitate abuse (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/1). Page says that although it is hard to "understand why CBC members turned out so mightily for a man whose presence appeared to cause many other House members to dart behind closed doors," Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) said that the caucus "never would have gotten [as] many reporters to come if Michael Jackson weren't here." Page says, "So, if Mr. Jackson is using the caucus to polish his image, the caucus is using him too, in order to draw attention to a broken promise by President Bush," who has not fully met his five-year, $15 billion pledge to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa. Page concludes that it is "sad" that the "catastroph[ic]" HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa "does not have the media-drawing power of a pop superstar," who "[f]or all of his weirdness ... is an expert at getting attention" (Baltimore Sun, 4/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.