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February 9, 2007

Bush's budget flat-funds Ryan White act, again

Washington, D.C.--Optimism that funding might increase for the Ryan White CARE Act quickly evaporated when President Bush delivered his proposed budget for the 2008 fiscal year on February 6.

The Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act pays to care for under-insured people with the disease. Last week, Congress passed a continuing resolution giving its Title II an additional $75.8 million through the end of 2007.

But two months after he signed the act’s reauthorization, Bush’s proposed budget “flat funds” the act for 2008, essentially keeping it at the same level it has been for the last six years.

The act has been flat-funded during all of Bush’s presidency, despite growing demand for the money.

The new Democratic-controlled Congress will debate the entire budget and may disagree with Bush. But budget experts generally see the president’s proposal as a basis for the debate, and a sign of the administration’s priorities on discretionary spending.

The president’s proposal does contain a $25 million increase for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, but Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese called that increase “insufficient.”

The Ryan White act is one of HRC’s top legislative priorities.

Solmonese also took issue with Bush’s plan to give an extra $28 million to “abstinence only until marriage” sex education programs.

Such programs, which are often thinly-veiled Christian doctrine, have been shown to be ineffective. They also ignore lesbian and gay students, who cannot marry.

Solmonese noted the irony in Bush’s proposal coming one day before National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which was observed February 7.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, of the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV and AIDS, approximately 500,000 are African-American. Furthermore, only 14 percent of African-Americans living with the disease have access to private health insurance, while 59 percent rely on Medicaid and 22 percent are uninsured.

“The president has paid much rhetoric to the problem of HIV/AIDS among minority communities in the United States,” said Solmonese. “It’s time for the president to put his money where his mouth is and request funding for domestic HIV/AIDS programs that keeps pace with the real need.”






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