America Has Voted: Statement by Black AIDS Institute President and CEO Phill Wilson

Nov 03, 2010, 08:34 ET from Black AIDS Institute

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 3, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Tuesday's elections redrew America's political map. The results also have far-reaching implications for the nation's response to AIDS in Black America.

Republicans swamped Democrats in Congressional races, winning more than 60 races, taking over the House of Representatives, and sharply reducing the Democratic majority in the Senate. At the state level, Republicans now control a majority of governor's offices and state legislatures.

What Election Results Mean for the National AIDS Response

Tuesday's results present at least three major challenges to the fight against AIDS.

First, many of the strongest Congressional AIDS champions will no longer occupy key leadership positions to advance an AIDS-friendly agenda.

Second, the new Republican majority campaigned on a platform of reducing federal spending on discretionary programs, such as the Ryan White CARE Act, the HIV prevention program at CDC, and substance abuse and mental health services for people living with HIV.

More than 56,000 Americans (nearly half of them African American) become newly infected with HIV – compelling proof that you get what you pay for (or that you don't get what you fail to pay for). We simply won't be able to turn the epidemic around in Black communities without stronger federal support for HIV prevention.

Eight states have waiting lists for their AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs), 20 have imposed restrictions to contain costs, and 13 are considering new cost containment measures.  For thousands of Americans living with HIV, this program means the difference between life and death.

Third, although it is unlikely that Republicans will be able to muster the votes needed to repeal healthcare reform, critics of health care reform may well seek to withhold the funding needed to implement key provisions of the legislation.

Where Do We Go?

America's health shouldn't be a political football. Americans of all political persuasions – Democrat, Republican, Independent, and Tea Party – should be able to unite around the conviction that all people deserve a fighting chance to live and to contribute to their community.  It is our job to lead that effort.

Tuesday's election results point the way toward opportunities to educate the new Republican majority. For example, the South is a region where Republicans made some of their greatest gains. The South also happens to be the region where HIV/AIDS rates among Black people are rising the fastest. It is vital that we help new Congressional leaders from the South understand what the epidemic is doing to their districts and work together to devise new solutions to these challenges.

Our work has never been more important. The challenges appear daunting at first glance, but our agenda is one that transcends political divisions.  It is time for all of us to roll up our sleeves, get to work, and insist on national solidarity to address the needs of the most vulnerable among us.

Yours in the Struggle,

Phill Wilson

SOURCE Black AIDS Institute