Congresswoman Waters Leads 48 Members of Congress Seeking Increased Minority AIDS Initiative Funding in FY 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services, and a congressional leader on HIV/AIDS issues, called for increased funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative, which was established under her leadership in 1998 to address the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on racial and ethnic minorities. She urged the funding increase in a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, who are in the process of negotiating a final appropriation agreement for fiscal year 2016.
A total of 48 Members of Congress signed the Congresswoman’s letter.
The text of the letter follows:
We write to urge you to provide robust funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative in the final FY 2016 appropriations legislation. Cuts below the current funding level of $425.2 million for this critical HIV/AIDS program are unacceptable. Moreover, funding for this program should be increased to ensure that the program benefits from sequestration relief under the Bipartisan Budget Act.
Racial and ethnic minorities continue to be severely and disproportionately impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States. Minorities represent the majority of new HIV infections, people living with HIV/AIDS, and deaths from AIDS. African Americans account for 44% of new HIV infections, and Latinos account for 21%. Asian Americans account for about 2% of new HIV infections; and American Indians/Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders, and individuals of multiple races together account for an additional 2%. Indeed, the rate of new HIV infections among blacks is about 8 times that of whites, and the rate among Latinos is about 3 times that of whites. The Minority AIDS Initiative is a critical tool in the effort to combat these unacceptable disparities, and funding cuts would be devastating to the progress already made.
Considering the dramatic disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS experienced by people of color, the conferees should at least support the funding levels for the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund (SMAIF) and the SAMHSA Minority AIDS Initiative accounts included in the House bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee proposal would reduce the initiative’s funding by a total of $61 million, completely eliminating the $52 million in funding for the SMAIF and cutting an additional $9 million from the SAMHSA funding. This would slash the initiative’s overall funding by more than 14%. These cuts are absolutely unacceptable.
The Minority AIDS Initiative targets HIV/AIDS prevention, screening, treatment, education, and outreach funds to minority communities heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS. These funds do not duplicate other HIV/AIDS funds, as suggested in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s report. Rather, they supplement other HIV/AIDS funds and fill gaps to help those communities where needs are the greatest. Any cuts to the initiative will have a profound detrimental impact on our nation’s ability to reduce the spread of HIV in these communities. This, in turn, will adversely impact our ability to fight the epidemic nationwide.
We therefore urge you to provide no less than the current funding level for each of the separate accounts of the Minority AIDS Initiative and to increase these accounts as much as possible in FY 2016, without cutting funding for other critical HIV/AIDS programs. We thank you for your attention to our concerns, and we look forward to working with you to protect and expand programs for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in all heavily impacted communities throughout the United States.