August 26, 2009
Washington, D.C. -- The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) joins the country in mourning the loss of Senator Edward Kennedy. Throughout his career, Kennedy continued the work begun by his brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy, by serving as a voice of the people and remaining a stalwart champion of the Civil Rights Movement.
"Senator Kennedy understood that AIDS was more than a disease; but a human and civil rights issue," says Paul A. Kawata, NMAC's Executive Director. "Ending AIDS in the U.S. demanded not only increasing access to treatment and care; but also addressing the stigma and socio-economic and health disparities that have helped drive the spread of HIV in the U.S., particularly in communities of color, since the epidemic began."
Under Kennedy's decisive leadership, the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act of 1990 was passed. Since that time, the legislation has evolved, providing life-saving and life-extending prevention, treatment, care and support services to over a half million people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. The program has saved countless lives and entire communities.
Kennedy was a tireless supporter of comprehensive health coverage, as evidenced by his surprise return to the Capitol last summer, in the midst of his treatment for a brain tumor, to cast the decisive vote on Medicare. This past July, Kennedy and his Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, passed The Affordable Health Choices Act, which will help reduce health costs, protect individuals' choice in doctors and plans, and assure quality and affordable health care for all Americans.
Ravinia Hayes-Cozier, NMAC's Director of Government Relations and Public Policy, says, "Senator Edward Kennedy is irreplaceable. Throughout his career, he leveraged the power of his family's legacy to raise awareness and political support for pressing civic and social issues in this country, and around the world."
As a nation, we can honor Senator Edward Kennedy, his family and all those who have helped advance the Civil Rights Movement by working together to ensure that health care reform, and the continuation of Ryan White, becomes a reality.