August 26, 2009
AIDS Action today mourns the loss of Senator Ted Kennedy, a true champion for people living with HIV/AIDS. As the Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and a long time health care, civil rights, and LGBT advocate, Senator Kennedy was a pioneer in fighting for the rights and needs of people living with HIV/AIDS. He remained instrumental in the fight against HIV/AIDS throughout this devastating epidemic.
"AIDS Action has worked with Senator Kennedy and his staff almost every day over the last 25 years in an effort to stop the spread of new HIV infections and ensure care and treatment for anyone living with this terrible disease. Ted Kennedy stood with us from the beginning when other Congressional leaders were afraid to say the word AIDS," said AIDS Action's Executive Director, Rebecca Haag. "Over the years he helped us build bipartisan support and fought all those who used bigotry to stand in the way. Today we mourn the loss of our leader and friend, but tomorrow we will pick up the pieces and continue the battle in his honor and memory."
Senator Kennedy was among the first politicians in the country to speak out about HIV/AIDS. In 1990, along with his friend, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), he was the lead sponsor of the Ryan White CARE Act, creating the largest funding program dedicated to HIV/AIDS treatment and care. He also championed HIV/AIDS research and prevention funding, worked to keep drug prices low and sponsored legislation to help people living with HIV get back into the workforce. During his lifelong crusade for meaningful health care reform he fought tirelessly to ensure that access to quality health care was a fundamental right for all Americans including people living with HIV.
"In honor of Senator Kennedy, we call on Congress to pass a strong health care reform bill with a public plan option that covers all Americans including those with HIV/AIDS, a bill that meets Ted Kennedy's standards," said Haag. "We also urge Congress to immediately reauthorize the Ryan White Care Act which is scheduled to sunset on September 30th. Senator Kennedy's life's work on behalf of those living with HIV/AIDS must not end with his death. Congress must, and I believe will, honor his memory."