HRC Commends Bush For Requesting New Aids Funds Abroad, Calls On Administration To Show Same Commitment At Home

In a letter sent on January 30th to President George W. Bush
following his State of the Union, the Human Rights Campaign applauded
the president's request that Congress triple spending to fight AIDS in
Africa, while expressing deep concern that Bush failed to speak on the
continuing domestic crisis. While the speech showed great promise, the
administration must follow through by fully funding life-saving programs
at home as well as abroad and implementing effective prevention efforts
that are grounded in science, wrote HRC.

During last night's speech, Bush unveiled his plan to commit $15 billion
over five years to combat AIDS in Africa. If the president's request is
approved by Congress, $10 billion in new funding would be added to the
international fight against AIDS, with the annual budget eventually
tripling from $1.5 billion to $3 billion. The president said his goal is
to provide treatment for 2 million people in Africa. While this goal is
laudable, the president's silence on helping people who are living with
HIV/AIDS in America has raised questions of whether the administration
is fully aware on the enormity of the problem at home.

"While we applaud your announcement of increased funding for fighting
global AIDS because it is the moral issue of our time, we are concerned
you made only a passing mention of the domestic AIDS crisis in the
speech, which we believe reflects the administration's continued lack of
focus on increased funding and support for science-based prevention,
treatment and research of HIV in our own country," wrote HRC Executive
Director Elizabeth Birch in her letter to the president. "HRC, the
nation's largest GLBT advocacy organization joins you in your commitment
to defeating the scourge of AIDS. We stand ready to work with you and
your administration to promote increased funding for domestic AIDS
prevention … and policies committed to science, not ideology, in this

The HIV/AIDS crisis at home remains tragic as precious lives continue to
be lost to the disease. Each year 40,000 Americans are infected with
HIV. Currently, an estimated 900,000 Americans are HIV positive and
evidence indicates those numbers are increasing, not declining or even
holding steady.

In fact, the number of Americans living with AIDS in the United States
increased 33 percent between 1996 and 1999. Even more distressing is the
fact that in 2001, 15,603 Americans died from AIDS, a clear sign that
the domestic epidemic is still raging. Additionally, AIDS is now the
leading cause of death for African Americans in the 25-44 age group.

"We hope you will encourage the Congress' FY03 budget conference
committee to support Senate increases in funding for the Ryan White CARE
Act and to submit higher funding levels for these programs in your FY04
budget request," wrote Birch. "In addition to increasing funding for
HIV/AIDS research, treatment and prevention in your FY04 budget, we hope
your administration will dedicate itself to appointing people committed
to science-based prevention to federal advisory boards and agency

HRC stressed in its letter its concern that the administration's focus
on abstinence-only education is ineffective, omitting crucial,
life-saving facts and ignoring the needs of gay people – particularly
gay youth.

"We also firmly believe that young people must be armed with information
not only about abstinence, but on the proper use of condoms and other
contraceptives should they decide to be in a committed and monogamous
sexual relationship," wrote Birch. "Allowing the spread of STDs and an
increase in teen pregnancies to push an agenda not based in science is
not responsible or reasonable."

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