Congressional Black Caucus Leaders Demand that President Bush Provide Greater Resources for HIV/AIDS Epidemic

Washington, DC – Thirty-two Congressional Black Caucus members yesterday sent a letter to President Bush urging him to "launch a major new US initiative to fight AIDS," a pandemic that has killed millions of people with many more deaths expected in the future. 14 million children have been orphaned by the disease, and 42 million people currently live with HIV/AIDS. By 2020, 70 million more people are expected to die from HIV/AIDS.

The CBC letter demanded that the President "respond on an appropriate scale to address the greatest plague in recorded history."

The letter coincided with a historic push that HIV/AIDS activists are making both in advance of the beginning of the 108th Congress and because President Bush will make in January his first trip to Africa, the epicenter of the AIDS crisis. Yesterday, a number of HIV/AIDS grassroots organizations flooded the White House with thousands of calls, insisting that Bush do more on the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Even while hundreds of thousands of people are dying monthly, the Bush administration has repeatedly killed funding for HIV/AIDS programs. Last year, the administration rejected $200 million in AIDS funding, which had been inserted in a supplemental appropriations bill. Worse, even after both the House and the Senate passed HR 2069/S2525, a comprehensive response to the Global AIDS pandemic, Republican leaders refused to negotiate the differences in the bills.

In their letter, CBC members told Bush that he had a "remarkable opportunity to demonstrate United States leadership against AIDS at a moment when the world will be watching." The CBC urged the President to include $2.5 billion for global AIDS programs in the Foreign Aid budget for FY ‘04. The Caucus insisted that 50% of this money go to the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

The CBC letter also called for prioritizing treatment for those affected, promoting access to affordable medicines for developing countries, expanding programs for children orphaned by AIDS, and canceling debt for impoverished countries to free up money for AIDS programs.

"We cannot win the war against AIDS without greater financial resources and a clear plan of action for the United States," wrote the Congressional leaders. "Each day we delay in mounting a comprehensive – and compassionate – response to the global AIDS and TB pandemics, the cost in human, social, and economic terms grow."