Friday, April 15, 2011

NBLCA Says Defunding Healthcare will Hurt HIV/AIDS

NBLCA Says Defunding Healthcare will Hurt HIV/AIDS
From a News Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 13) — In a week in which the House of Representatives is considering devastating cuts to HIV/AIDS programs, leaders from Congress, faith-based communities and medical professionals gathered on Capitol Hill to urge continued dedication to fighting the disproportionate impact of the still-deadly disease on Black Americans.

"Congress needs to understand the importance of these programs and to do all they can to prevent the elimination of needed funding as they make decisions on the budget," said C. Virginia Fields, President and CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc. (NBLCA). "They need to hear from people on the front line of how the proposed cuts would drastically hurt the prevention, treatment and care of HIV and AIDS as well as other illnesses that disproportionately impact Black and low-income communities."

Fields noted that the House this week is considering HR 1217, legislation that would repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund, a provision of the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare reform bill enacted last year. States are already using Prevention and Public Health Fund dollars to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and any decisions that harm that goal should be avoided, she said.

Fields pointed to federal statistics showing that African Americans, though only 12 percent of the nation's total population, account for 45 percent of new HIV infections and 49 percent of newly diagnosed AIDS cases. Black women account for 65 percent of all newly diagnosed AIDS cases and 61 percent of all newly diagnosed HIV infection cases among women as of 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Her comments came during a day of meetings on Capitol Hill to support H.R. 1462/S. 795, the National Black Clergy for the Elimination of HIV/AIDS Act of 2011. That bill, introduced last week by Rep. Charles Rangel and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, lays out a comprehensive plan for the federal government to lead the way in marshaling resources in the fight against HIV and AIDS. The legislation was developed by a conclave of ecumenical leaders with support from representatives from the medical, political, government, business and community activism fields.

Among the other participants in the meetings Wednesday were Rep. Maxine Waters, Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Donna Christensen, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and other Members of Congress; Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, Board Chair, National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS; and Rev. Frank Tucker, Chair, Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (BLCA) of Washington, D.C. Vicinity; Rev. Raphael Warnock, Chair, Metro Atlanta; Rev. Horace Sheffield, Chair, BLCA of Detroit; Rev. Sedgwick Easley, Chair, BLAC of Long Island, NY; and Rev. Robert Linder, Vice Chair, BLCA of Albany, NY.

The participation of clergy is crucial in efforts to increase prevention, treatment and care, Fields said. "Even with a National AIDS Strategy in place, Black clergy are in the best position to accomplish the goals of National Black Clergy for the Elimination of HIV/AIDS Act, which is to target resources where they are most needed. HIV and AIDS impacts Black Americans at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group and, even after 30 years of living with AIDS, the disease remains at epidemic levels in many communities."

With public concern about AIDS dropping sharply in recent years, the NBLCA has begun a campaign to rekindle public awareness about the need for prevention, testing and treatment, as well as the will to find a cure. The campaign, entitled "30 years Strong! Together We Will Win," consists of an online commemorative journal that tells the story of HIV/AIDS over the last 30 years through the eyes of people infected by and affected by the disease. The public is invited to contribute to the campaign, which is on the NBLCA's web site, .

And on June 9 the NBLCA will open an important new chapter in the domestic fight against HIV/AIDS by hosting the first annual induction of leaders and corporations into the Hall of Hope and Remembrance. The induction will take place at the NBLCA's annual Choose Life Awards Benefit Reception in New York City.

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