4. Money: More Green for Black Health
Whether it's funding for mega-million-dollar umbrella legislation like the Ryan White CARE Act and the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative, which bankroll services and care for people with HIV nationwide, or for local needle exchanges or free condoms at bars and churches, advocates chafe at the lack of dollars to prevent and treat HIV among African Americans.
Sen. Barack Obama
HIV/AIDS cutbacks have already threatened the very existence of Los Angeles' groundbreaking Minority AIDS Project. "Our budgets were cut in half," executive director Victor McKamie says. "I had to lay off 31 persons over the last year and a half. Meanwhile, [HIV] rates are increasing, the demand for services has increased." It's also worth nothing that while groups like Minority AIDS Project, which are committed to establishing prevention programs that "push the envelope" -- such as condom distribution and needle exchange -- face a growing cash-flow crisis, the Bush administration is funneling more and more money to faith-based organizations, many of which have no HIV-services experience at all, so they can create abstinence-only prevention programs.
These Bush policies have in turn led to a kind of divide-and-conquer dynamic among AIDS service organizations, says YO ACAP's Linda Burnette. She wishes that organizations could take a united-we-stand approach instead. "The HIV community is very fragmented," Burnette says. "I'm fighting for adolescent African-American dollars. The white gay community is fighting for white gay dollars. The black gay community is fighting for black gay dollars. The women ... And you know, the deals get cut. Let's get real. But if we could ever come together, which we did in the early days, and cut the deals ourselves so that everybody is able to supply the needs of their community, I think that would be it."
What you can do: Contact your senator or your representative and demand that they protect the Ryan White CARE Act and other HIV/AIDS public-health funding allocations. Remember, the war on AIDS is every bit as critical to the security of America as the war on terrorism.
Better yet, take Capitol Hill by storm by joing AIDSWatch, the National Association of People With AIDS' annual lobbying effort, in which people with HIV from all over the country go mouth-to-mouth with Congress to hold it accountable to the U.S. AIDS community. This year, you can take part in the event with a click of a mouse by joining AIDSWatch at Home. To find out more or to register, click here.
Finally, if you've got an eye toward the national elections this fall and the presidential campaign in 2008, check out the Campaign to End AIDS and AIDSvote.org for a comprehensive analysis of what the HIV community needs -- and needs to demand -- from our elected officials to end this epidemic. Read We Demand Accountability from the Black AIDS Institute.
And when the time comes, get off your ass and vote!