Michael Emanuel Rajner

Florida Congressmembers Advance AIDS Drugs Funding

Filed By Michael Emanuel Rajner | February 20, 2011 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: ADAP, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Alcee Hastings, Congress, continuing resolution, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, HIV/AIDS, NASTAD, National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, Planned Parenthood, Rosa DeLauro, US House of Representatives

AIDS advocates woke Friday morning to a bittersweet victory and discovered the US House of Representatives agreed to an amendment, as part of a continuing resolution for federal spending, providing for an additional $42 million for our nation's crippled AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP). Hastings.jpgAs the House burned the midnight oil late Thursday night, Democratic US Representative Alcee Hastings (Broward County: pictured at right) proposed an amendment to shift $14 million from the administrative budgets of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA), totaling $42 million. The funds would be redirected to HRSA with the intent to rescue ADAPs across the country.

Hastings' shared with me that:

I am pleased that my amendment to provide increased funding for our nation's AIDS Drug Assistance Program, also known as ADAP, was included in the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act. If we are to be serious about saving lives, preventing new infections, and reducing the financial burden and stigma of this disease, then we must take meaningful action to ensure that all individuals living with HIV/AIDS have access to the medications and services they need to stay alive. Make no mistake; I remain committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to continue advocating on behalf of the AIDS community and increase access to testing and treatment.

While this past week's effort was the success of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), and one they should be commended for, Hastings has been concerned with the ADAP crisis for some time. Last September, prior to the House recessing in October for the November 2010 mid-term elections, I sat in the House chamber while he urged his colleagues to immediately find a way to ensure thousands of people living with the United States with HIV/AIDS have a secure means of accessing lifesaving HIV-medications.

DWS.jpg Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Broward County: pictured left) has been a strong advocate for sensible HIV/AIDS-programs and vocal leader on the ADAP crisis also spoke in strong support of Hastings' amendment.

The victory of $42 million more going to ADAP was bittersweet. While the continuing resolution is welcome, the House of Representatives has now sent the spending bill to the US Senate where Republican senators will target countless programs. According to the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance:

House Republicans are proposing $100 billion in cuts from current-year programs, including HIV prevention. Without question, this budget proposal will increase HIV cases if implemented, and take an ax to programs that are the life-lines for millions of people in the United States.

These cuts won't fix our nation's fiscal mess, but they will unjustly sentence people living with HIV and other Americans in need to unnecessary hardship and suffering.

A few hours before Hastings amendment was brought to the floor, the Republican leadership revealed their true agenda and ruthlessly gutted critical federal funding for STD and HIV-testing and prevention programs administered by Planned Parenthood. US Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz summed it up best in her email yesterday:

The past couple of weeks have seen an unprecedented attempt by the Republican majority to force a radical, dangerous, harmful social agenda on women at the expense of the millions of unemployed Americans waiting for them to fulfill their campaign promise to create jobs.

The opposition has introduced not one, but three anti-woman measures:

  • HR 3, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" (Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ), which would redefine "rape" and bar some rape victims from receiving federally funded abortion coverage. It would also increase taxes on employers whose health insurance plans cover abortion services.
  • HR 358, the "Protect Life Act" (Rep. Joe Pitts, R-PA), which would actually allow health care providers to deny abortions to women whose lives would be saved by the procedure.
  • HR 217, the "Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act" (Rep. Mike Pence, R-IN), which would eliminate Title X funding. Over five million low-income women every year rely on Title X funding for basic primary and preventive health care, including life-saving breast exams and pap smears, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and contraception.

Once again, the Republicans are wasting precious time playing politics with their radical base instead of addressing the nation's unemployment rate.

They have chosen to punish women instead of putting them back to work so they can take care of their families.

These intrusive bills are just the latest examples of the extreme agenda that we are fighting in Congress. They have sent an incredibly strong message to women about what the current majority thinks of women's rights and women's lives, and to all Americans about how low the economy is ranked on the Republicans' priority list.

This is just the beginning. While we have successfully pressured the opposition to abandon efforts to redefine rape, we must be vigilant as they continue to try to undermine reproductive choice and other rights we hold dear.

US Representative Rosa DeLauro (New Haven, CT) justly characterized the continuing resolution as:

"reckless" and "a bill beyond repair"

DeLauro shared her support for increased funding for ADAP, but urged her colleagues to work to defeat the heartless and inhumane continuing resolution and not give any value to it.

The harsh reality is, more funding is needed for our nation's ADAP, and the Republican majority's plan was to decrease ADAP funding needed to save the lives of those individuals struggling with HIV/AIDS. This amendment was a necessary evil in a budgetary process often compared to sausage making.

Thank you Alcee and Debbie for answering the call of thousands deeply troubled with the fear of not having access to HIV-medications that sustain them and keep them alive.

According to the National Association of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) weekly release of the ADAP Watch:

6,452 people living with HIV/AIDS in 11 states, as of February 17, 2011, are on waiting lists to access their state's ADAP:

  • Arkansas: 33 individuals
  • Florida: 3,276 individuals
  • Georgia: 968 individuals
  • Idaho: 3 individuals
  • Louisiana: 700 individuals *
  • Montana: 19 individuals
  • North Carolina: 127 individuals
  • Ohio: 427 individuals
  • South Carolina: 448 individuals
  • Virginia: 448 individuals
  • Wyoming: 3 individuals

* Louisiana has a capped enrollment on their program. This number is a representation of their current unmet need.

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It's about damn time. Every legislator who doesn't co-sponsor this should be ashamed.