President Bush, during his State of the Union address on Wednesday, called on Congress to renew the federal Ryan White Act, which provides funds for treatment and support programs for HIV-positive people across the country.
"And as we update this important law, we must focus our efforts on fellow citizens with the highest rates of new cases: African-American men and women," Bush said in his address.
African-Americans, who make up about 14% of the U.S. population, account for more than half of all new HIV infections each year in the United States. Bush's comments directly addressing the high HIV prevalence rate among African-Americans came in stark contrast to comments made by Vice President Dick Cheney during a preelection debate with former U.S. senator John Edwards. When asked what the government's plans were to address the disproportionately high HIV rates among black women, Cheney responded that he didn't know that African-American women were at a high risk for the disease.
"I was very pleased that he mentioned [HIV/AIDS]," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) told the San Francisco Chronicle of Bush's speech. "What is important is to look at the budget the president proposes next week and see if he makes good on his promise and funds the Minority [HIV/] AIDS Initiative. In the past he has not funded the requests that we have presented to him."
Bush met last month with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and with Lee, who chairs the caucus's Global AIDS Emergency Task Force. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said he and other caucus members pressed Bush to mention the domestic AIDS pandemic in his State of the Union address.
Be sure to follow Advocate on your favorite social platform
DON'T MISS THE OUT100 SPECIAL 3 DAY MARATHON STARTING NOVEMBER 24TH!
Journey through the year’s influential Out100 – the most iconic and long-standing celebration of LGBTQ+ icons and allies – in a 1-hour television special spotlighting the LGBTQ+ people shaping the world today.