Reply to "AIDS turns 20"

HEADLINES:

1. DIRECTION OF MOST NEW STATE FUNDING TO FIGHT HIV/AIDS IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR STILL UNRESOLVED; SENATE REPUBLICANS DIRECT $500,000 TO BLACK AND LATINO COMMISSION; HOUSING WORKS AND OTHERS URGE LEGISLATIVE LEADERS TO PUT PUBLIC HEALTH OVER POLITICS IN DISTRIBUTING FUNDS

2.BUSH PUSHES BIG INCREASE IN MILITARY SPENDING WHILE FLAT-FUNDING AIDS AND LEAVING STATE BUDGETS BLEEDING: WE TOLD YOU THAT WAR AND PEACE ARE AIDS
ISSUES NOW

3.ERISTOFF PLAYS POLITICS WITH AIDS IN EFFORT TO UNSEAT KREUGER IN UPPER EAST SIDE STATE SENATE RACE; CALL ERISTOFF THIS WEEK TO TELL HIM TO GET REAL ON HIV TRANSMISSION

DIRECTION OF MOST NEW STATE FUNDING TO FIGHT HIV/AIDS IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR STILL UNRESOLVED; SENATE REPUBLICANS DIRECT $500,000 TO BLCA AND LATINO COMMISSION; HOUSING WORKS AND OTHERS URGE LEGISLATIVE LEADERS TO PUT PUBLIC HEALTH OVER POLITICS IN DISTRIBUTING FUNDS

Elected officials and activists succeeded in earmarking about $4.75 million in this year's state budget for new investments in the fight against HIV/AIDS in communities of color. Legislative sources say that the final distribution of most of the funding is yet to be determined, five months after passage of budget bills. But State Senator Pedro Espada announced
Tuesday morning that $500,000 in funds from Senate Republicans would be directed to the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS and The Latino Commission on AIDS.

Officials at BLCA and the Latino Commission say they will each contribute at least $150,000 of their $250,000 grants to a pool for distribution to community groups, and that they'll work to obtain matching funds for the $300,000 pool from one or more foundations.

Some observers fear that the Senate distribution is a sign of further politicization to come. Rumors swept the AIDS advocacy community last week
about the Senate funding, as well about a potential split of Assemblydollars that might have channeled funds to the most politically-connected groups, including large non-minority service providers.

But a high-level Assembly official assured advocates late Friday that no decision had been made on the distribution of $3 million in new funding obtained by Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Assembly Democratic Majority.

This official emphasized that broad input into the distribution process would be sought from AIDS champions like Assembly Members Roger Green, Peter Rivera and Dick Gottfried, and from community organizations and advocacy groups before any process was finalized.

Aides to Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno did not respond to numerous calls from the Update inquiring about plans for the remainder of what Senate officials have previously claimed would be $1.75 million in new HIV/AIDS funding targeted to communities of color by the Senate Republican Majority Conference.

But Senator Espada's office told the Update that the $500,000 is from the $1 million in new HIV funding appropriated by the Senate Majority conference, and not from the controversial $745,000 in member item funding Senator Espada had tried to channel to the social service organization that he established and that still employs him.

Housing Works and other groups that advocated for the new funding (including BLCA and the Latino Commission) have urged Senate and Assembly leaders to direct a significant amount of new resources to the MSA and CDI programs that currently make up our state's targeted HIV/AIDS infrastructure for communities of color.

* We've recommended that 2/3 of new funding be directed straight to the 44 MSA/CDI groups, without an application process, in order to beef up the existing targeted infrastructure in the areas hardest-hit by HIV/AIDS. The MSA/CDI system is currently the best way to get resources to frontline service providers located in and run by minority communities.

* We've also recommended that 1/3 be made available to smaller and fast-growing groups in underserved communities that aren't in the MSA/CDI
program, with top priority given to groups run and staffed by members of the minority communities they serve. We've urged legislators to create an easy one-page application for this funding and to create a workgroup made up of
legislators with relevant expertise to make decisions on funding.

Groups joining on to these recommendations include Housing Works, the New York AIDS Coalition, Harlem United, People of Color in Crisis, the Long Island Minority AIDS Coalition, and the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, as well as BLCA and the Latino Commission.

Assembly Member Roger Green, chair of the Black, Puerto Rican & Hispanic Legislative Caucus and a prime mover behind the new funding, has told groups he supports these recommendations and will work to encourage Speaker Silver to back them. Coalition members are planning meetings with Rivera, Gottfried, and other top officials and staff to reemphasize our concerns.

There's a real danger that the impact of new funding will be lost if the distribution of funds is overly political. Certainly there are many
high-quality service groups that maintain good connections with elected officials, who want to work to support them. But political connections
shouldn't be a requirement to access the new funding: the most important qualifications should be
(1) a leadership role in hard-hit communities of
color
(2) connections to people of color living with HIV/AIDS or at high risk for it.

Housing Works feels strongly that no group should have to have a lobbyist to gain access to these important new resources. Priority should go to groups that are either already a part of our state's current minority-targeted infrastructure (MSA/CDIs) or who are leaders in a hard-hit minority community ready with a plan for saving local lives, or both. When lives are at stake, public health must go before politics and self-interest. We hope that New York's legislative leaders will agree.

BUSH PUSHES BIG INCREASE IN MILITARY SPENDING WHILE FLAT-FUNDING KEY AIDS

PROGRAMS AND LEAVING STATE BUDGETS BLEEDING: WE TOLD YOU WAR AND PEACE ARE AIDS ISSUES NOW

Last year, the Update warned that the Bush administration's zealous focus on putting the nation onto a permanent war footing would lead to a shortage of resources for crucial domestic needs like HIV/AIDS prevention and care. As
you may already know, that's exactly what happening in Washington now:
polls indicate the public believes that the President is paying too much attention to the war and not enough to domestic issues, and Bush's budget priorities put war funding over everything else.

President Bush wants $396 billion for war in next year's federal budget: $379 billion for the Defense Department and $16.8 billion for nuclear
weapons through the Department of Energy are included in the Defense appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2003. This amounts to a 13% increase
above current levels, an increase of about $45.5 billion dollars from 2002 levels ­ that's 45,000 million dollars, just so you know.

And there are more war costs to come. The Congressional Budget Office estimates in its letter to the chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees that "prosecuting a war" could roughly cost anywhere from $9 to $13 billion dollars a MONTH, but could not give any final figures as to the actual cost of the coming war with Iraq.

In contrast, Bush has proposed the second straight year of flat funding for the Ryan White CARE Act and the Minority AIDS Initiative, two key federal AIDS programs. And he's neglecting the massive need for resources in the fight against the global AIDS pandemic, which is now recognized as a key national security issue. (According to the National Intelligence Council,
HIV/AIDS will cause a "humanitarian catastrophe" in Russia, Nigeria, India and China, and is likely to result in dramatic upheavals across Africa, which now provides an increasing portion of America's oil supply.)

Here's a quick list of increases in war spending ­ note that the numbers are in billions, each of which is a thousand million:

Department of Defense:

Military Personnel: 15% increase to $94.2 billion

Operations/Maintenance: 18% increase to $150.2 billion

Procurement: 12% increase to $68.7 billion

Research/Development: 11% increase to $53.9 billion

Military Construction: 27% decrease to $4.8 billion

Housing: 2% increase to $4.2 billion

Other (Administration): 3.3 billion

Department of Energy/Nuclear Weapons: 2.5% increase to $16.8 billion

Now compare that with the following list of mostly flat AIDS spending, and note that the numbers are in millions, each of which is .001 billion:



Ryan White CARE Act:

Title I: 0% increase to $619 million

Title II Base: 0% increase to $338.5 million

Title II ADAP: 0% increase to $639 million

Title III: <1% increase to $194.5 million

Title IV: 0% increase to $71 million

Part F(Dental): 58% increase to $23.4 million

Part F(AETC): 0% increase to $35.3 million

CDC AIDS Programs: 0% increase to $840 million

Minority AIDS Initiative: 0% increase to $540 million

One more comparison: the Ballistic Missile Defense (Star Wars) program at $8.9 billion dollars is twice as big as the federal domestic AIDS budget, including research.

The priorities of the Bush administration are clear and getting clearer: trillions more for the war effort, and trillions in tax cuts for the very
rich. Meanwhile the fight against AIDS here and abroad is neglected, and millions of people, overwhelmingly people of color, will die. The United States will continue to see 40,000 or more new HIV infections each year, with the epicenter in New York's communities of color. Basic public health programs like safe-sex education and harm reduction and needle exchange programs are frozen, cut or blocked.

Is the public health of this nation unimportant to the President as he ignores the plea of the people to drop the war and pay attention to domestic issues? Increasing infection, increasing medical costs, increasing need for
services continue to arrive at this doorstep and he continues to take the money away to give to his war. And make no mistake -- this is HIS war, not the people's war. The people's war belongs to those at home caring, working and advocating for the health and welfare of this nation.

(More information on the Bush war budget is available from the Center for Defense Information at www.cdi.org.).
ERISTOFF PLAYS POLITICS WITH AIDS IN EFFORT TO UNSEAT KREUGER IN UPPER EAST SIDE STATE SENATE RACE; CALL ERISTOFF TO URGE HIM TO GET REAL ON HIV

TRANSMISSION

Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, candidates for public office have been tempted to play politics with AIDS, instead of focusing on responsible public health efforts to fight the epidemic. It's happening again in this year's State Senate race on the East Side of Manhattan.

Some really irresponsible New York politicians, like Nettie Mayersohn and Steve Kaufman, seem to have built entire personas around "getting tough on AIDS" when they really want to "get stupid" on AIDS. And even otherwise admirable politicians like Attorney General Eliot Spitzer have stooped to playing politics with AIDS; advocating stupid policies to seem "tough" is a Clintonesque move that seems particularly attractive to certain individuals who are either deeply misinformed or deeply insecure (or both).

Andrew Eristoff, a Republican former City Council member and a candidate for the State Senate seat currently held by Democrat and AIDS champion Liz
Kreuger, is zeroing in on the same issue Spitzer did four years ago: forced HIV testing of crime suspects. Housing Works led protests at Spitzer's
campaign office to urge him to listen to health experts instead of pollsters on this issue, and we might have to return to the streets to knock some sense into Mr. Eristoff.

Eristoff is criticizing Senator Kreuger in television ads and political mailings for voting against a bad forced HIV testing bill, not mentioning that Kreuger's Republican predecessor voted against the same bad bill every time it came up in the last six years he was in office.

S. 7419 wouldn't do anything to help survivors of sexual assault, and it might do a lot to hurt them. The bill is premised on the entirely wrong
idea that HIV prophylaxis should wait until police track down a crime suspect, and then that decisions on prophylaxis should be based on the test results of the suspect.

Rape crisis counselors point out that prophylactic medications against HIV/AIDS need to be taken within 72 hours of a sexual assault, and that waiting for test results from an alleged perpetrator would decrease the likelihood that such prophylactic treatments would be provided in time to be effective. They also point out that the suspect could be the wrong person, leading to an erroneous treatment judgment whether the test turned out positive or negative.

Senator Kreuger and others have pointed out that the bad bill also includesa wildly expansive list of alleged offenses that could result in forced HIV testing, so that under S. 7419 someone accused of pushing someone on the street could be forcibly tested for HIV without their consent. It's a really bad bill, and that's why Kreuger voted against it.

At a Kreuger press conference, State Senator Tom Duane said "After Senator Krueger is re-elected to the Senate, I will be more than happy to sit down with Andrew Eristoff and teach him the basics of HIV/AIDS transmission unfortunately, it sounds like he needs it."

Anyone who'd like to call Andrew Eristoff's campaign to register your complaint against his misleading and damaging campaign commercials should call his uptown office at 212-288-2351 or his downtown office at 917-606-0730. Ask the campaign why they need to play politics with AIDS,
and ask them to stop their current ads and start telling the truth.

________________________________________________

The Housing Works New York State AIDS Issues Update is reported, written and edited by Michael Kink and staff at the Housing Works Albany Advocacy Center. This week's issue includes an article on federal issues by Nuris Rodriguez and Michael Kink. You can reach us by phone at 518-449-4207, by fax at 518-449-4219, & by email at update@housingworks.org.

Housing Works provides housing, advocacy and services to homeless people living with AIDS and HIV. Housing Works is the nation's largest
community-based AIDS organization and the nation's largest minority-controlled AIDS organization.

OCTOBER 7, 2002
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