More than 150 AIDS organizations and other HIV/AIDS advocacy groups sent a letter to President Bush Monday outlining concerns about domestic funding levels for HIV/AIDS services and urging him to ask Congress to boost spending for the programs. "The HIV epidemic is growing in America every day, while federal resources to fight it are not keeping pace," the letter states. "If the government does not fully fund federal AIDS programs, there is only one sure result: The American taxpayers will see both costs of treatment and the death toll rise dramatically."
The letter also expresses the groups' concerns over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recent decision to again charge the San Francisco-based Stop AIDS Project with violating federal restrictions on using grant money for projects federal officials deem to promote sexual activity or to violate community obscenity standards. The CDC had initially cleared the Stop AIDS Project of any wrongdoing four months ago. The CDC's actions "appear to prioritize ideology over sound science and public health practices," the groups write in the letter, adding that "regressive policies of censorship and intimidation--both regulatory and informal--put American lives at risk."
Specifically, the letter calls for Bush to increase funding for Ryan White-supported HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs, to allow local groups to operate "culturally relevant" prevention programs without undue government interference, to ensure that federal prevention strategies continue to target those most at risk for infection, to allow comprehensive sex education that includes instruction on condom use in U.S. schools, and to bring an end to "clear censorship of potentially lifesaving information." The letter also was sent to several members of Congress.
Among the groups signing the letter are the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, AIDS Project Los Angeles, the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, Florida AIDS Action, Gay Men's Health Crisis, the Human Rights Campaign, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project, Houston's Montrose Clinic, National AIDS Education and Services for Minorities, the National Association of People With AIDS, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, the New York AIDS Coalition, Project Inform, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the Stop AIDS Project, and the Whitman-Walker Clinic.