On World AIDS Day last weekend, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani vowed that if he were elected president he would "continue America's life-saving role as a leader in the global fight against HIV/AIDS until the day humanity can declare victory against this deadly disease."
But in his eight years as mayor of New York City, Giuliani "showed absolutely zero concern for people living with AIDS and HIV," said Charles King, president of Housing Works, the New York-based service provider for people with the illnesses. He called Giuliani's declaration "gross hypocrisy."
"We had to litigate against him from the beginning of his term to force his administration to follow New York law with regard to the provision of services and care to persons with AIDS and HIV," King said.
Giuliani's administration pulled his group's city contracts, he said, as retaliation for their frequent, very aggressive criticism of the mayor and his policies.
"It's pretty safe to say that on HIV/AIDS, relations between Mayor Giuliani and the [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community was combative and lacked trust," said Joe Tarver, spokesman for Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay advocacy group.
Maria Comella, Giuliani's campaign spokeswoman, said funding levels for AIDS-related services remained steady during Giuliani's tenure as mayor, which ended in 2002.
Mismanagement was the reason the city terminated contracts with Housing Works, the Giuliani administration contended. In 2005, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration settled for $4.8 million, but the city did not acknowledge any wrongdoing in a case brought by Housing Works against Giuliani's administration over the contracts dispute.
As mayor, Giuliani won plaudits in the gay community for his enactment of a 1998 domestic partnership measure that extended benefits to partners of city employees. As a presidential candidate, however, he has been criticized for backing away from his support for civil unions.
Housing Works was among many groups to sue Giuliani's administration on free speech issues. In 1998, the group won federal court approval to use the plaza outside City Hall for the annual World AIDS Day observance. Citing terrorist threats, Giuliani had closed the area around City Hall to public gatherings but allowed exceptions for celebrations of a Yankees World Series victory and a ceremony to honor astronaut John Glenn.
King recalled that his group was "surrounded by police in riot gear" and confined in penned areas while police sharpshooters kept watch on the roof of City Hall during the event.
Comella said that as "a precautionary measure," groups using City Hall for rallies and demonstrations were "all asked to use the same safety procedures while using the space."
© 2007 The Boston Globe