Administration Committed to Providing AIDS Funds Where Most Needed, Thompson Tells Hearing on AIDS in Minority Communities
Members of the Congressional Black, Hispanic and Asian Pacific American Caucuses yesterday urged the federal government to devote $540 million per year for HIV prevention, treatment and education campaigns targeting minorities, the Los Angeles Times reports. The government currently spends $385 million on such programs, but the delegates said that the rising incidence of HIV among minorities should prompt additional funding for initiatives aimed at those communities. "The money should follow the epidemic and go to communities disproportionately affected with [HIV]," Virgin Islands congressional delegate and Congressional Black Caucus Chair Donna Christian-Christensen (D) said (Trapps, Los Angeles Times, 6/13). Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who as co-chair of the AIDS Task Force of the House Democratic Caucus was invited to speak at the hearing, said that $540 million is "more responsive to the true level of need" in minority communities for HIV prevention and treatment campaigns (Pelosi release, 6/12). Karen McManus, executive director for the Women of Color AIDS Council in Dorchester, Mass., said that many community groups do not receive enough funding to provide services such as housing and food to clients. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) added that the "bulk" of the funding for HIV programs in minority communities should be given to groups with "largely minority" staffs. "I'm not happy with the way various departments have been giving funding to organizations that aren't minority controlled. The money is not being spent in the way we had designed it," she said (Los Angeles Times, 6/13).
Thompson Promises Review of Budget
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson vowed that he would "scrutinize" the government's $10.2 billion budget for AIDS programs to see "how we can best use the dollars to do the job better." Thompson stated that a panel led by HHS Deputy Secretary Claude Allen will examine the various AIDS programs "to find out what is working." He added that enrolling more minorities in treatment programs is essential, and "implored" the lawmakers to help him decide how to best address the epidemic in minority communities. Although delegates said they were happy that Thompson agreed to review the budget, some expressed skepticism as to whether the review would lead to increased funding. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas), vice chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said that he is "disappointed" that the administration is not pledging additional funding, adding, "If this is an emergency it needs to be reflected in action and resources to the programs," he said (Gamboa, Associated Press, 6/13). To view a kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of the hearing, click here.