Rep. Waters Observes National Latino AIDS Awareness Day by Opposing Funding Cuts for the Minority AIDS Initiative
WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee and a leading advocate in Congress for HIV/AIDS prevention, testing and treatment, marked National Latino AIDS Awareness Day by reiterating her support for robust federal funding for domestic HIV/AIDS programs in fiscal year (FY) 2016.
“National Latino AIDS Awareness Day is a day to remember the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS in the Latino community and call for policies that will improve HIV/AIDS awareness, testing and treatment among Latinos and all those who are at risk of this terrible disease,” said Congresswoman Waters. “I urge congressional leaders to take this epidemic seriously and provide robust funding for HIV/AIDS programs in the coming fiscal year.”
More than 220,000 Latinos live with HIV/AIDS in the United States. Latinos account for 21 percent of new HIV infections and 19 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS, despite the fact that they represent only 16 percent of the U.S. population. Overall, racial and ethnic minorities represent a majority of new HIV infections, a majority of people living with HIV/AIDS, and a majority of deaths from AIDS.
Earlier this year, Congresswoman Waters circulated a letter to Appropriations Committee leaders requesting an appropriation of $610 million in FY 2016 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. A total of 65 Members of Congress signed the letter, in addition to Congresswoman Waters.
“Latinos and other minority communities are severely and disproportionately impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States. These communities have a critical need for resources to reach out to people who are at risk and encourage them to get tested. That is why I strongly oppose the cuts in funding proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee for the Minority AIDS Initiative,” said Congresswoman Waters.
In June of this year, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended that funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative be cut by $61 million in FY 2016 and that the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund be completely eliminated. The House Appropriations Committee has yet to consider FY 2016 funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative or other programs within the Department of Health and Human Services.
On September 11, 2015, Congresswoman Waters; Congresswoman Robin Kelly, the Chair of the Health Braintrust of the Congressional Black Caucus; Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a member of the House Appropriations Committee; and 18 other Members of Congress, wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to oppose cuts in funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative and other HIV/AIDS programs serving minority communities.
“This funding is too vital to the public health outcomes of many communities of color and must remain a budget priority in the years ahead. Not only is the Senate Appropriations Committee unjustified in making this cut, fundamentally we find this decision to be negligent as a public health strategy. For these reasons, we ask that you not sign into law any Department of Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations legislation that fails to recognize the still critical nature of the minority AIDS epidemic in America,” said Congresswoman Waters and her colleagues in their letter.