Bush in State of the Union Address Urges Congress To Reauthorize Ryan White CARE Act, Pledges To Work With Black Churches, Faith-Based Groups
President Bush on Tuesday during his State of the Union address called on Congress to reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act and increase funding for states to eliminate waiting lists for HIV/AIDS-related medications in the U.S., United Press International reports (United Press International, 2/1). The CARE Act, which expired Sept. 30, 2005, provides funding for care and services to HIV-positive people in the U.S (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/2/05). Twenty-one state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs either have implemented waiting lists or other cost-containment measures or are considering such measures, according to a recent ADAP watch released in December by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors. ADAPs are federal- and state-funded programs that provide HIV/AIDS-related medications to low-income, uninsured and underinsured HIV-positive individuals (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/8/05). In his speech, the president said, "More than a million Americans live with HIV, and half of all AIDS cases occur among African-Americans" (United Press International, 2/1). Bush said he would lead a nationwide effort, in which he would work with black churches and faith-based groups to "deliver rapid HIV tests to millions, end the stigma of AIDS and come closer to the day when there are no new [HIV cases] in America." Globally, Bush said the U.S. must "take the offensive by encouraging economic progress and fighting disease," including HIV/AIDS (Bush speech text, 1/31).
AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein in a statement said he is "extremely heartened" by Bush's call to renew the CARE Act. "It is time to end the national embarrassment of having hundreds of Americans living with HIV/AIDS placed on waiting lists ... simply to get the AIDS medications they need," Weinstein said (AHF release, 1/31). The AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth & Families, while [a]pplauding Bush's statement, urged the administration to renew a CARE Act that supports "comprehensive, culturally competent" HIV/AIDS health care services for low-income families. "We cannot turn the CARE Act solely into a program that provides tests and pills," AIDS Alliance Executive Director David Harvey said, adding, "We need a CARE Act that supports high quality health and social services through family-centered care programs" (AIDS Alliance release, 1/31). AIDS Project Los Angeles "welcomed" Bush's push for the reauthorization of the CARE Act. However, Executive Director Craig Thompson said, "Bush has had six years to appropriate funding to end waiting lists for life-saving HIV/AIDS medications in this country. It is hard not to be skeptical when there is no will behind the words." Thompson also said that Bush's proposal to make rapid HIV tests more widely available and end the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS will "cost billions," adding, "We will never 'prevent, treat and defeat' domestic AIDS at the rate we're going" (APLA release, 1/31).
A video of Bush's speech, including an excerpt of his comments on HIV/AIDS, is available online. A video of the Democratic response and the complete transcript of the State of the Union also are available online.