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How to Be a Player in Federal Decision-Making

September/October 2001

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

Every fall, Washington, D.C. buzzes with activity as the U.S. Congress finalizes a spending and taxing plan for the coming year. This year because of the recent tax cut, the slowing economy, and because the Bush administration has proposed spending a ridiculously small amount on the AIDS crisis it is more important than ever for people who care about AIDS to participate in the budget debates. Fortunately, this is easier than you might think, and with one or two phone calls or better yet, one handwritten letter you can have an impact much larger than you might expect.

Do you wonder how one letter or phone call from you could possibly affect the federal budget? The simple explanation is this: small, personal, efforts have a huge impact because most people never take the time to communicate with their elected representatives. Think about it. Of all the people you know who have a strong opinion on various government policies, how many have actually written a letter to their Congressperson? Ask your friends, probably fewer than you think ever take the time to communicate with elected officials. Well, this is something that your Representatives have thought about, and because they've thought about it, they generally regard one phone call and especially one letter as representing the wishes of a much larger group of people. It is ironic, but true: while every vote counts, every letter and phone call gets counted more, because recipients assume that for each person who takes the time to write, there is a large community of people who feel the same way, but simply don't take the time to express themselves.

So take a minute or two, or ten, and communicate with your elected officials. Tell them what you know about HIV/AIDS, and tell them that you care. Tell them that until there's a cure, and for as long as HIV/AIDS continues to burden already poor and disenfranchised communities, the federal government must make HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment, and research significant social and financial priorities. This June marked the twentieth anniversary of AIDS in America, and unless we make the federal government put significantly more money into the fight against AIDS now, twenty years will quickly turn into fifty, and the worst will be ahead, instead of behind us, where it belongs.

To help your efforts, we have drafted a sample letter for you to use as a model, and if you don't know who represents you, or how to reach them, just go to www.vote-smart.org, or call 1-888-VOTE-SMA (1-888-868-3762) and you'll be on your way! Now, let your voice be heard!

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Sample Letter

Dear Representative/Senator [their name here]:

I urge you to support increased funding for domestic and international HIV/AIDS prevention, care, housing and research.

HIV is expanding by 40,000 Americans each year, the cost of basic healthcare and prescription drugs is skyrocketing, and the epidemic is growing most quickly among people of color in communities already plagued by poverty and poor access to quality healthcare or affordable housing. AIDS has already grown so enormously around the world that some countries are facing genocide-by-disease.

In my own life and community, I have seen HIV/AIDS wreak enormous harm. [Here is a good place to add some facts from your life or community.]

The budget proposed by the President is not realistic. It does not provide enough money to meet current needs in our country, much less the increasing needs of a growing HIV-positive population. It fails to invest seriously in prevention efforts. It does not contribute enough to the international fight against AIDS especially in comparison to other industrialized nations. The proposed budget would weaken efforts against the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our country and abroad.

We must increase, and not decrease, our efforts against HIV/AIDS. One need only look beyond our borders to see why.

Sincerely,

[Your name and address so they know that they work for you]


Kaethe Morris Hoffer is manager of federal affairs at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC), and can be reached via AFC's website at www.aidschicago.org. She works to help people affected by HIV/AIDS in Illinois work closely and effectively with the men and women who serve them in Congress.


Got a comment on this article? Write to us at publications@tpan.com.

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by Positively Aware. It is a part of the publication Positively Aware. Visit Positively Aware's website to find out more about the publication.
 
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