Black Leaders Release Five-Point Plan for Bush Administration to Support HIV/AIDS Efforts
Black leaders who convened in Atlanta last week for the 100 Black Men of America's "Meeting of the Millennium" pledged to increase their collaborative efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in African-American communities and released a five-point action plan in which they "urged" the Bush administration to focus its anti-HIV/AIDS efforts, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The two-day meeting was organized by the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS in partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus, the National Medical Association and the Surgeon General's Leadership Campaign on AIDS and was funded in part by GlaxoSmithKline. Conference participants issued a report calling for $540 million a year in federal funds to support "minority-based" HIV/AIDS organizations' efforts and asking the Bush administration to declare HIV/AIDS a "national state of emergency." In 1998, the Congressional Black Caucus asked the Clinton administration to declare HIV/AIDS a national emergency and received $156 million in funding for HIV/AIDS-related services. The new proposal asks for an additional $190 million over this year's $350 million amount, although NBLCA President and CEO Debra Faser-Howze said the actual "need" is closer to $1.3 billion (Bonds Staples, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/9). The five key areas highlighted in the report include:
- Resource allocation: The direction of funds to where they are most needed, such as the CBC's Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative, community organizations and HIV-related housing services;
- Outreach programs: Support for the creation of initiatives addressing HIV/AIDS in high-risk populations;
- Housing: Prioritizing the development of new housing units for individuals living with HIV/AIDS;
- Health outcomes: The elimination of racial/ethnic disparities in health outcomes for all chronic illnesses, including the improvement of racial data tracking and reporting and the establishment of an Office of Correctional Health;
- International Outreach: Strengthening efforts to decrease HIV infections and AIDS mortality in Africa and help develop an infrastructure for children orphaned by AIDS (GlaxoSmithKline release, 6/8).
Black Leadership 'Not Bankrupt'
The plan was released a week after a CDC study reported a "possible resurgence of HIV" among gay men between the ages of 23 and 29. The report showed that gay black men were "particularly" affected, with an infection rate of 14.7% compared to 2.5% for whites (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/9). The CDC estimates that blacks account for 54% of the total number of new HIV infections reported every year, although they only account for 13% of the general population. This was a bipartisan meeting of African-American Democrats and Republicans, all willing and ready to work with the Bush administration in one of the most serious health crises that Black America has ever faced. We are dying and our survival is our first priority, Fraser-Howze said at the unveiling of the plan (GlaxoSmithKline release, 6/8). Donna Christian-Christiansen, the Virgin Islands' delegate to Congress and a member of the CBC, added, "This country has the wherewithal to meet the challenge. This is not the time to cut back, when our people are dying, for this country not to live up to its obligation to improve the health of all its citizens." In a speech, Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., addressed the black community's "fear" of homosexuality, which health experts said may "discourage" gay black men from being open about their sexuality and from being tested for HIV. "So much of the suffering of AIDS comes not from the physical effects of the virus, but from the callousness, neglect and fear of our surrounding community," she said (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/9). "Let us work together to ensure that homophobia, ignorance and low self-esteems no longer feed the spread of AIDS," she added (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 6/8). Dr. Eric Goosby, director of AIDS policy at HHS, called it "wonderful" that "the black leadership from across the spectrum came together [at the meeting] and said 'enough is enough.'" He added that the plan was "critical to expressing the outrage the African-American community feels over the continued disparities in treating HIV and other disease," and said he hopes the meeting will mark the "beginning of the end of the epidemic in our community" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/8).