Saturday, September 02, 2006

HIV/AIDS: Senator Clinton Treated Unfairly by National BCC

HIV/AIDS: Senator Clinton Treated Unfairly by National BCC

Former President Bill Clinton leaped to the defense of the Bush administration's global AIDS efforts [Emergency Program for AIDS Relief or PEFPAR] recently, saying the United States is spending more to fight HIV than any other government.

Dr. Tom Raflaski, an internist in Albany specializing in HIV in Albany NY, sees things in a different light. 10 percent of all people in the world with HIV, mostly Westerners, receive 90 percent of the treatment. Data show that free access to HIV care may be the most important determinant of treatment success and prevention. Widespread HIV treatment reduces viral load so that transmission is reduced. Generic drugs can bring treatment cost down to a mere 50 cents a day. Dr. Rafalski points out that President Bush has fought the use of generics and universal access.

The domestic scene is also different. The former president's wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, has cast a lone protest vote on Senate approval of a bill (S 2823) that had passed the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Senate last May. The bill would reauthorize the Ryan White Care Act. There was good reason for that vote, even though her vote is being treated with anger by some activists. She voted to hold out until a new funding formulation is worked out to make the funding equitable based upon not only the number of state-to-state cases of HIV postive citizens, but the numbers of full-blown AIDS patients in her state of New York as well. New York has one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the nation, and Senator Clinton could not stand idly by and see such political injustice being done.

The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, enacted in 1990 and reauthorized in 2000, is the centerpiece of the federal government’s efforts to improve the quality and availability of care for medically underserved individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS. The CARE Act, administered by the HIV/AIDS Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration, provides funding to states, territories, and other public and private nonprofit entities to develop, organize, coordinate, and operate more effective and cost-efficient systems for the delivery of essential health care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. [LINK]

I deeply regret seeing people like Harry C. Alford, chief executive of the National Black Chamber of Commerce playing the race-card. [as witnessed in the Washington Post]. Senator Clinton has said that the result of the bill as passed from the Committee would unfairly shift millions of dollars in funding away from New York and other states that have been hardest hit by the epidemic, jeopardizing their ability to provide vital care and treatment services.

If the $2 billion-a-year allotment that has been regularly reauthorized is no longer enough, our representatives should be fighting tooth and nail for more overall funding instead of fighting each other for the crumbs. In the past, funding allocations have been a matter of contention, but if the number of citizens in the South who have contracted HIV is rapidly increasing, the overall amount of funding available should be raised proportionately.

A commenter named North Dallas Thirty at a site called makes a strong statement about race and I wonder if his (or her) distaste for Senator Clinton has overtaken his common sense:
The reason Hillary wants to protect HIV/AIDS funding as it is now is simple; it’s in the perfect balance for what she needs.

She can claim at cocktail parties for white liberal gays how she protected their money.

She can claim at black church fundraisers that “those Republicans” just try to keep blacks down by not approving more funding for them amd reinforce their victimization and dependence on her.

This redistribution of funds based on where they’re actually needed neutralizes her on both sides — which is why she is fighting it so vehemently
The commenter completely forgets that men aren't the only human beings who contract the HIV virus or who struggle with the symptoms of AIDS. Any American leader or citizen who plays the race, gender, or sex card over AIDS is truly disgusting to me. HIV/AIDS effects all people the same devastating way, regardless of their color, their sexual orientation, or their gender.

I support Senator Clinton's efforts because I can see clearly why she has chosen to take action that could be considered risky for her political image. I don't give a care that she's thinking about running for President. I know that's not why she made this decision. On August 31, Stephen Waldron of the Central New York HIV CARE Network in East Syracuse, NY wrote to the Syracuse Post Standard and said, in part:
..Sen. Clinton has taken a courageous stand on behalf of persons living with HIV and AIDS in New York state - and on behalf of HIV-positive persons throughout the country who benefit from Ryan White-funded services. [..] The best way to ensure more adequate funding for HIV/AIDS services to persons of color across the nation is through adequate increases in appropriations to the Ryan White CARE Act - not diverting funds from high-impact states like New York. Unfortunately, appropriations to the Ryan White CARE Act have remained static (except for modest increases in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program) for six years. [..] Until fundamental flaws in the reauthorization bills are corrected - a process that seems increasingly unlikely - it will be preferable to delay reauthorization, in which case current funding provisions will continue in effect.
I'd be the first person to volunteer to support an agenda that provides a hell of a lot more funding for those who are coping with and managing the symptoms of HIV/AIDS right here at home. But I won't stand for petty back-biting. I know that I am not alone.

*Related Story: 'NO' to AIDS Formula
- Syracuse Post Standard editorial
Sept 1 2006



New York 162,446
California 133,292
Florida 94,725
Texas 62,983
New Jersey 46,703
Illinois 30,139
Pennsylvania 29,988
Puerto Rico 28,301
Georgia 27,915
Maryland 26,918