The National Association of People With AIDS has written to both Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards to express concern about their responses to a question about the domestic AIDS epidemic during the vice presidential debate Tuesday. In a letter faxed to Cheney at the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign headquarters, NAPWA executive Terje Anderson disputes Cheney's claim that the United States has "made progress in terms of the overall rate of AIDS infection," noting that annual HIV infections in the country remain at about 40,000 per year. "Community organizations and health departments across America are stalled for lack of funds to implement tried and true interventions to reach those most at risk of HIV infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's HIV prevention budget line has remained essentially flat for the last three years," the letter says.
Anderson also writes that he and other NAPWA officials are "shocked" that Cheney is unaware of the disproportionately high rate of HIV infection among African-American women. "The incidence of HIV infection among African-American women has far exceeded HIV cases among white women for at least a decade," Anderson wrote. "And while the number of people living with HIV in America continues to grow with an ever-increasing proportion of us poor, people of color, women, and youth, funding provided by the federal government for care, treatment, and housing has not increased in any meaningful or appropriate amount."
In a letter faxed to Edwards at the John Kerry for President campaign headquarters, Anderson writes, "We believe you missed an important opportunity, with millions of Americans watching, to talk about HIV incidence in African-American women. It was an opportunity missed to talk about the increasing demands for funding HIV care, treatment, prevention, and housing while discretionary spending has remained flat." Anderson adds, "We believe last night was the moment to focus on the need for substantial increases for the Ryan White CARE Act, for the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS program, and for HIV prevention activities."
Cheney was asked by debate moderator Gwen Ifill of PBS about the role of the government in fighting the domestic AIDS battle, noting that African-American women ages 25-44 are 13 times more likely to die of AIDS complications than white women. Ifill also asked Cheney and Edwards to specifically talk about the U.S. AIDS battle, not international AIDS efforts. Cheney responded to the question by admitting he had no knowledge that HIV is disproportionately affecting African-American women, and proceeded to laud the Administration's five-year, $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief that funds AIDS efforts in 12 poor nations. Edwards, in his rebuttal, also talked only about international AIDS efforts, pledging to double spending on PEPFAR to $30 billion, and of the need to get more Americans into preventive health care.
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