It's not Saturday night, but apparently the time is right for fighting between Elton John and Gov. Rick Scott. In his upcoming memoir, Sir Elton criticizes the unpopular pol for attempting to cut funds to Florida's AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Elton even wrote a letter to the governor, and the response he received from Scott's surgeon general was essentially, Well, if you care about Florida's AIDS patients' lives so much, why don't you come down here and perform a few charity concerts?
ADAP programs help poorer patients with HIV get access to lifesaving but exorbitantly expensive medications. Florida's ADAP program has one of the longest waiting lists in the nation, and in 2011 Scott and Republicans in the state legislature were considering changing the requirements. That would have resulted in thousands of people being cut off from those medications. The restrictions did not go into effect, but the state has been slow to provide additional funding for the program. Thousands of people still remain on the waiting list, and about half of those people live in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
The international superstar founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation and wrote a letter to Scott urging him to avoid restrictions and better fund the program. The Miami Herald has a PDF of the letter here. John did not receive a letter back from Scott himself, but rather his then-surgeon general, Frank Farmer.
"We welcome any suggestions or ideas you have to help us do more with our existing funding,'' Farmer replied. "I once again cordially invite you to consider an ADAP fundraising concert series in Florida. I know you have a big fan base here, and we would love to welcome you to the Sunshine State."
John is no slouch in helping raise money for AIDS/HIV-related causes, but the suggestion that one pop star alone can help fund a large state's ADAP program is sort of ridiculous.
Here's Sir Elton's take on the matter, from an interview with NPR's Morning Edition today:
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On asking Florida not to cut funding for HIV and AIDS patients, and Florida Surgeon General Frank Farmer suggesting he play a benefit to help raise money
"[EJAF is] an AIDS organization, and whenever anybody's funding is cut -- and it's usually cut, especially in this case in Florida, [for] the people that can afford it least ... then we're going to write a letter about it. And we wrote a letter to [Florida Gov. Rick Scott] himself. ...
"It's not my job to [fund a state's AIDS program]. It's the government's priority to do that. I can't do benefit concerts for Florida, for the people with AIDS in Florida. It's their responsibility; they need to do what's right. And cutting funding for the people that [can] least afford it is criminal."
On why funding for AIDS treatment is the government's responsibility
"We can solve this AIDS problem forever if the government gives the funding. If people are encouraged to come out and say they're HIV-positive and they're given their treatments, then obviously the people who are marginalized -- like intravenous drug users, prisoners, people who are made to feel less-than -- if they're given the support of the government and they're given the funding, then it's going to help solve the spread of AIDS and HIV in America. We have to try and get rid of this shortsightedness when it comes to HIV and the stigma around it."
According to Naked Politics, John included the exchange in his new memoir, Love Is the Cure.