With AIDS funding at risk, Boehner triples budget to defend DOMA

Today I got an “action alert” email from AIDS United and AIDS Interfaith Network, urging me to call my senators and representatives today and urge them to vote against any legislation that would create drastic cuts in federal funds for “essential programs” for people with HIV/AIDS.

House Speaker John Boehner

The email noted that a special congressional committee is working right now on a plan to reduce the deficit, and that cuts to programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Ryan White CARE Act, food stamp programs and unemployment benefits could be on the chopping block. “Cutting these programs will make things worse, not better. People will be hurt and access to life-saving HIV care will be lost,” the email said.

I found the email in the inbox about the same time I found an email from the National Minority AIDS Council pointing out that less than a week after the House Appropriations Committee proposed slashing funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention by $32.7 million, and cutting the Prevention and Public Health Fund by an amazing $1 billion, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has tripled the House’s budget for defending the Defense of Marriage Act, legislation that prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, even though performed in jurisdictions that do legally recognize them.

Back in March, Boehner decided that the House of Representatives, under Republican control, would hire a law firm to defend DOMA in court, originally budgeting President Obama had announced in February that he was instructing the Justice Department to no longer defend the law in court, because at least part of DOMA — the part which denies legal federal recognition and benefits to same-sex couples who have been married in jurisdictions with gay marriage is legally recognized — is unconstitutional under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

That decision came after federal district judges had declared DOMA unconstitutional in two separate lawsuits.

It’s bad enough that Boehner and the Republicans in the House feel the need to spend up to $750,000, as per the initial agreement, to hire someone to defend such an unjust law in the first place. Doing so while at the same time threatening to force the country to default on its debts instead raising the debt ceiling was unconscionable. And now, as thebudget crunch continues and Tea Party Republicans continue to complain about the country’s debt and refuse to consider revenue increases, Boehner and his merry band have decided to up the limit they will pay Kircher to defend DOMA to $1.5 million.

Daniel C. Montoya, deputy executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council, said: “I urge Speaker Boehner to reconsider his decision. 56,000 Americans are infected with HIV each year. More than half of those were among gay and bisexual men. Spending taxpayer money to delegitimize relationships that have been shown to promote healthier lifestyles is antithetical to American values, contrary to the conservative belief in limited government and detrimental to public health. In this time of fiscal and economic strife, certainly the Speaker and his colleagues can find better ways to spend this money.”

Montoya also suggested that Boehner’s decision raises “serious questions about his purported commitment to fiscal responsibility.” Yeah, ya think? If you agree and want to express your opinion to your representatives in Congress, you can call, toll free, 1-888-907- 1485.

—  admin

HUD grants to help with housing for those with AIDS

President Barack Obama

HOPWA program will administer $9.1 million in competitive grants to develop, improve housing options

DANA RUDOLPH  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Monday, May 23 announced up to $9.1 million in grants to address the housing needs of people with low-incomes living with HIV/AIDS.

The competitive grants, offered through the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program, are intended for states and local communities to create more integrated strategies and partnerships between housing programs and other health and human services.

David Vos, director of HUD’s Office of HIV/AIDS Housing, said in a statement on the HUD website that the partnerships will help show “how to take holistic approaches to serving some of the nation’s most vulnerable, persons living with chronic health challenges and risks of homelessness.”

At the end of the three-year grants, HUD will evaluate and publish the results of grantees’ efforts in an Integrated HIV/AIDS Housing Plan. The IHHP will be an online resource to help communities “integrate the delivery of housing along with medical and other supportive services,” said Vos.

The grants and IHHP are intended to support both President Obama’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy and his Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.

President Obama released a National HIV/AIDS Strategy in July 2010 with specific, measurable targets to be achieved by 2015. One of the strategy’s goals is to help people living with HIV “who have challenges meeting their basic needs, such as housing.”

The strategy says that “non-medical supportive services, such as housing, food, and transportation, are “critical elements of an effective HIV care system.”

The strategy calls for increasing from 434,000 to 455,800 the number of people receiving HIV-related services under the Ryan White Care Act who have permanent housing. The Ryan White Program, the largest federally funded program for people with AIDS, provides services for those who do not have sufficient health care coverage or financial resources.

According to the strategy, “Individuals living with HIV who lack stable housing are more likely to delay HIV care, have poorer access to regular care, are less likely to receive optimal antiretroviral therapy, and are less likely to adhere to therapy.”

One 12-year study of people living with HIV in New York City, cited in the strategy, found that “housing assistance had a direct impact on improved medical care, regardless of demographics, drug use, health and mental health status, or receipt of other services.”

But HUD’s announcement comes only weeks after the U.S. House passed a budget for Fiscal Year 2012 that AIDS activists believe will diminish HIV programs and services.

The proposed budget, authored chiefly by Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, calls for dramatic cuts in Medicaid, which provides health insurance coverage for people with low incomes.

And it calls for dramatic cuts in Medicare, which provides health insurance coverage for Americans 65 and older and for people with disabilities, including AIDS.

In a letter to members of the House in April, a large coalition of groups serving people with HIV had urged a “no” vote on the plan, saying it “will do irreparable harm to people living with HIV disease as well as those at risk for HIV infection.”

In addition to addressing the housing needs of people living with AIDS, HUD has also taken several significant steps towards addressing housing discrimination in the LGBT community.

It has issued proposed new regulations intended to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in its core housing programs.

It also clarified that, although the Fair Housing Act — a pivotal civil rights act that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status, does not specifically cover sexual orientation- or gender identity-based discrimination, it may still provide them with protection in other ways.

For example, discrimination against a gay man because of fear he will spread HIV/AIDS may constitute illegal discrimination on the basis of a perceived disability, HIV/AIDS.
HUD has also instructed staff to inform individuals about state and local LGBT protections that may apply to them. And HUD has told all its grant applicants they must comply with such laws, where they exist.

Applications for the new grants should be submitted at grants.gov by Aug. 2. Winners are expected to be announced by Sept. 20.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright