AIDS Advocates, African-American Political Leaders React to Bush Pledge To Fight HIV/AIDS Among Blacks With Surprise, Skepticism
AIDS advocates and African-American political leaders have reacted to President Bush's pledge to fight HIV/AIDS among blacks with "surprise and some skepticism," the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/4). Bush during the State of the Union address on Wednesday outlined an agenda aimed at U.S. inner cities, including a pledge to fight the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the African-American community. Bush also asked Congress to reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act "to encourage prevention and provide care and treatment" to people living with the disease. "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. Last month, Bush met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who chairs the CBC Global AIDS Taskforce, was expected to deliver a letter to the president acknowledging his work to raise the profile of the HIV/AIDS pandemic but adding that a greater commitment is needed (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/3). "I think [Bush's pledge] caught everyone off guard," Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute, said.
Skepticism on Budget
Lee said that it was "good" that Bush recognized the impact HIV/AIDS has on the black community, adding that she "looks forward" to assuring that Bush "follows up with funding," according to the Chronicle. "In the past, the president's promises have failed to match his policies," Lee said, adding, "If the president is serious about addressing HIV/AIDS in the African-American community, the budget he will unveil next week will provide adequate funding for programs like the Minority AIDS Initiative." Rev. Jesse Jackson, head of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, said that he "doubts Bush's sincerity" on the issue, adding, "Bush said he plans to launch a more vigilant fight to attack gangs and the deadly AIDS virus, but he did not say how much he would commit to these efforts. You can't separate the HIV crisis from the impact of high unemployment and the standing poverty and the impact of the jail-industrial complex. On these issues of importance, (Bush) has a way of talking at us and not with us." According to a fact sheet released on Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, African Americans have been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS since early in the epidemic, and that disparity has "deepened" over the years, the Chronicle reports (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/4).