HRC Says HIV Shortchanged by Clinton Budget
By Norm Kent
WASHINGTON - President Clinton’s
new budget today, proposed increased spending on key HIV/AIDS programs,
but comes up short on funding for crucial prevention efforts, the Human
Rights Campaign declared on Wednesday.
While the overall budget
is laudable, more prevention dollars are needed - especially in minority
communities where the spread of HIV continues to outpace efforts to slow
it down, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
"We are pleased with the
overall funding which will help initiate new research and improve the quality
of life for people living with HIV and AIDS, " said HRC Political Director
Winnie Stachelberg. "Unfortunately, the lack of funding for prevention
will ensure that this disease continues to march undeterred and cause even
more devastation, particularly in communities of color."
The budget proposes an increase
of only $40 million for HIV prevention at the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC). This increase does not reflect the urgent need to
address CDC reports that there are an estimated 40,000 new infections each
year. The problem is especially acute in minority populations, according
to HRC. For gay African-American men, AIDS deaths dropped 35 percent in
1997 and 17 percent in 1998, while comparable reductions for whites were
51 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
Surgeon General David Satcher
reported that AIDS death rates for African Americans remained nearly 10
times higher than for whites. Adding to these numbers is the CDC finding
that young African-American gay men were five times more likely to contract
HIV compared to other young gay men.
Clinton's requested 8 percent
funding increase of $125 million for the Ryan White CARE Act (RWCA), and
an additional $26 million for the State AIDS Drug Assistance Program should
be applauded, says HRC. For over ten years, the RWCA has helped more than
500,000 people impacted by HIV and AIDS who have received care and assistance
through this program.
"We are looking forward to
working with the administration and Congress on adequate funding levels
for the Ryan White CARE Act, as well as ensuring reauthorization without
negative amendments," said Stachelberg. "With more and more people living
with AIDS, care and assistance programs remain a> critical component of
caring for families impacted by HI and AIDS."
The president also proposed
an increase in funds for the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS
(HOPWA) - a program which provides housing assistance and supportive services
for low-income people with HIV/AIDS and their families. HOPWA received
a $260 million increase for FY 2001, about a 12 percent increase over FY
Clinton also proposed a $105
million increase in HIV/AIDS research funding at the National Institutes
of Health (NIH). This funding would be utilized for HIV and AIDS research,
which will bring our nation closer to developing a vaccine or a cure and
help in development of new drugs, says> HRC. The increase in funding will
bring the total funding for NIH HIV/AIDS research to more than $2.1 billion.
Last year, the administration
and Congress again worked together to provide generous funding for some
areas of the fight against HIV/AIDS. For example, the budget deal included
generous funding increases for vital life-saving programs, including a
13 percent increase for the Ryan White CARE Act, and a 15 percent increase
for medical research at the National Institutes for Health (NIH). The bill
also received a last minute modest funding increase of 6 percent for HIV
prevention activities at the CDC.
The Human Rights Campaign
is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization with members
throughout the country. It lobbies Congress, provides campaign support
and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be
open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.
Send your editorials to Publisher@expressgaynews.com