The Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus conducted a Special HIV/AIDS Hearing, which focused on the activities carried out by the US Department of Health and Human Services to implement the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative, which has provided an infusion of targeted and tailored funding to address and reduce the disparities in HIV-related morbidity, mortality and to improve health outcomes for people of color highly impacted by HIV/AIDS.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, and other officials from various federal health agencies testified on activities to implement the Initiative, which is intended to build and expand the infrastructure and capacity of minority community-based organizations (CBOs) to provide quality HIV prevention interventions, and health care and supportive services. Since 1998, this targeted Initiative has enabled minority CBOs to access capacity building assistance and the resources necessary to mount an effective response to the epidemic within their own communities.
"The trends in the HIV/AIDS epidemic among people of color in the U.S. underscore the need to sustain and expand the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative," testified Miguelina Ileana Leon, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy at the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) and a witness at the hearing. "The President's budget request for FY 2002 flat-funds the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative and the Ryan White CARE Act programs. This is unconscionable at the time when people of color represent the overwhelming majority of new HIV and AIDS cases and people living with HIV/AIDS in this country. Now more than ever the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative is needed," continued Leon.
The hearing looked at statistical data on the impact of HIV/AIDS in minority communities. More than 56% of the cumulative AIDS cases have been among people of color: 292,522 (38%) among Blacks/ African Americans, and 141,694 (18%) among Hispanics/Latinos compared to 330,160 (43%) cases among whites. Cumulative deaths due to AIDS reported through December 31, 2000 amounted to 448,060, of which, 381,611 (85%) were among men and 66,448 (15%) among women. People of color account for 53% of the cumulative AIDS related deaths: 158,892 (35%) among Blacks/African Americans, and 77,698 (17%) among Hispanics/Latinos compared to 206,909 (46%) among whites.
"We appreciate the leadership and the on-going efforts of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Asian and Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) to increase resources to minority community based organizations to develop and implement tailored and culturally competent services for people of color affected by HIV/AIDS," concluded Leon.
The programs developed under the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative are in their second or third year of implementation. While they are promising we know that the impact of HIV disease in communities of color cannot be mitigated in a single year or even a few years. These efforts require sustained commitment and support commensurate to the burden of disease and need.
In addition to Leon, NMAC Executive Director Paul Akio Kawata testified at the hearing, as well as panels of persons living with HIV/AIDS and providers of prevention and care/services programs to persons living with HIV/AIDS. Mr. Kawata's comments will address the need for continued leadership on the part of the federal government in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The panels provided specific perspectives on issues that arise when providing services to people of color.
The National Minority AIDS Council was created in 1987 to develop leadership in communities of color to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS. The organization's programs in the areas of technical assistance, conferences, communications, treatment education and advocacy and public policy provide information, resources and support to more than 3,000 community-based organizations serving minority communities around the country. For more information on NMAC and its programs, please visit the NMAC website at http://www.nmac.org or call Carlos Velez, JD, Acting Director of Communications at 202-483-6622, ext. 306.