Some HIV/AIDS Advocates Calling on Bristol-Myers Squibb To Clarify Funding Amount Pledged to National AIDS Fund Through Web Site Campaign
Some HIV/AIDS advocates and ethics experts are calling on pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb to clarify or change the amount pledged to the National AIDS Fund through its Web site campaign Light to Unite, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. BMS created the Web site -- on which visitors can light a virtual candle and the drug maker will contribute $1 to the National AIDS Fund -- to mark World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, according to the Star-Ledger. BMS has agreed to contribute no more than $100,000 to the National AIDS Fund, which the company announced last month when it launched the Web site. However, the $100,000 limit is "not clear" unless visitors "read the fine print in the lower right corner of the screen," the Star-Ledger reports. Some HIV/AIDS advocates and ethics experts say that the Web site is unclear about the amount BMS will contribute to the National AIDS Fund, adding that the site should either be changed to clarify the pledge amount or that BMS should agree to change the amount, according to the Star-Ledger. As of Wednesday night, about 800,000 virtual candles had been lit on the Web site, the Star-Ledger reports. "This is dispiriting at best and dishonest as worst," Arthur Caplan, director of the Center of Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said, adding, "I'm glad they're giving money, but companies have to be particularly sensitive about saying what they'll do and why they're doing it." According to David Bryden of the Global AIDS Alliance, the Web site is "very misleading. This is the kind of thing that pharmaceutical companies do to portray positive images. It taps the sympathies of people for those who are vulnerable." BMS spokesperson Tony Plorohos did not address the reaction from some advocates but said in a statement that the company is "thrilled that nearly 800,000 people have visited (the Web site) to light a candle and show their support in the fight against HIV/AIDS." He added that BMS is "proud" of the $100,000 pledge and that the campaign is "one of several ways that Bristol-Myers Squibb is helping" HIV-positive people. National AIDS Fund CEO Kandy Ferree said that she is happy about the Web site's popularity because it shows that the campaign has raised awareness about the organization. The National AIDS Fund is "committed to transparency and clarity," Ferree said, but she would not comment on whether she is concerned if the Web site is misleading (Silverman, Newark Star-Ledger, 12/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.