Sunday, July 27, 2008

Part 3-HIV Faith


photo by Jessie McClain
In 2001, Scott Evertz became the Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy. In a variety of news article he is often referred to as the "White House AIDS czar." He was a public policy advocate in Wisconsin and worked closely with Tommy Thompson (head of the Department of Health under Bush until January 2005). In his capacity as the Director of White House Office of National AIDS Policy, he again worked with Tommy Thompson. Scott Evertz was also the President of the Wisconsin Log Cabin Republicans. The Wisconsin Log Cabin Republicans supported Bush's run for the president in 2000. And several members were rewarded for their support of Bush, besides Evertz.
Thompson left as head of the Department of Health in 2005 and later (2006)was hired as President of Logistics Health Inc. This company got its start in health screening for various professional agencies such as the FBI, Smith-Kline-Beecham, Sony, Target, & United Airlines. Their big financial break came when they got a contract with the military for vaccinating against anthrax The company provides health screening/services for the military-Department of Defense--as well as health testing for CSX Transportation.
There is an interesting article in the La Crosse Tribune regarding an outcry over this company having an unfair advantage in bidding for a contract to provide immunizations and physical and dental exams for reservists and National Guard members. Formal protests were filed with the GAO regarding this contract--companies bidding less, did not get the contract. The companies who lost believed that Logistics had an unfair advantage because of Tommy Thompson's previous position with the Department of Health and William Winkenwerder Jr. who previously supervised military health programs at the Pentagon.
Getting back to Scott Evertz, once White House AIDS czar, he now holds the position of Vice President for International Affairs at OraSure. One can see that OraSure has a powerhouse of people with past connections to high government positions. And certainly that helps sell a product--when the President of the United States actually knows the name of the product you are selling and mentions it not only in the US but in the world forum. At one website dated in January of 2003, we learn that the President "widened his multibillion-dollar AIDS agenda and said a Bethlehem company's (OraSure) quick HIV test will be key to fighting the disease in the United States." Also mentioned in this article is how "regulations were waived so that the test will soon be more readily available."
One might call this the revolving door of business and government. How do we as members of a democratic society know for sure that decisions in government are totally unbiased regarding contracts made with corporations. Particularly, difficult to discern is whether there was some influence made on these government officials who later received good positions in companies that profit from government contracts. One company, Logistics, already has its competitors upset because of what is perceived to be an advantage of "influence." OraSure is luckier than Logistics because it has no to little competition when it applies for government contracts.
Newsweek had an article dated October 16, 2007 about OraSure "Investing in AIDS Testing." Brant, the writer of the article, states that Michael's, CEO of OraSure, hired Scott Evertz,White House AIDS czar, "who met with health ministers in Africa last month about making OraQuick more widely available through government-run health clinics." and "The CDC has been buying OraQuick in bulk an distributing them to clinics and even mobile testing units."
Troubling is the recent revelation that a number of health departments in the US are no longer using these test kits because of the number of false positives. Would OraSure have gotten as far as it has, if not for some well-placed people in the government? Why were regulations waived so quickly and easily? Why do we have faith in this test?
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

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