House Republicans have threatened to cut funding to national and global HIV/Aids programs, prompting Rep. Maxine Waters, a longtime Democrat from California, to condemn the move, saying it will have a detrimental impact Black communities.
Speaking at the Annual United States Conference on HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C. last week, Waters called out Republicans for suggesting they would decline to reauthorize the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
The program has operated for two decades distributing HIV/AIDS medication and preventative care to millions of people around the globe, offering job training for those at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and providing assistance for youth who have become orphans as a result of the virus, the Associated Press reported.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 40 million people have died from HIV since the first reported case in 1981.
Since its inception in 2003 under Republican President George W. Bush, PREPFAR has saved 25 million lives globally, implemented efforts to get a better grip on HIV/AIDS in more than 50 countries and has prevented millions of people from contracting the virus, according to the Department of State.
Despite the progress made in tackling the disease both domestically and abroad, a handful of House Republicans are refusing to reauthorize PREPFAR, which has bipartisan support, because they believe nongovernmental organizations that receive funding through the program will use those resources to promote and provide abortion services.
“They don’t seem to care whether or not people will die if they don’t have the medicines that are needed,” Waters told theGrio on Thursday following the conference. “They don’t care if young people don’t get the education that they need to prevent getting infected. They are set on big cuts.”
Waters warned that eliminating funding for HIV/Aids programs will “exacerbate racial disparities.”
“Whether we’re looking at HIV, AIDS or COVID, [the Black community is] always behind with resources to deal with these issues,” she said. “The Black community and other minority communities are just not treated the same.”
Waters told theGrio that it is imperative that HIV/Aids programs are funded so that President Joe Biden’s goal of ending HIV/Aids at home and abroad is fulfilled.
Last December, Biden proposed programs that would work to end HIV/AIDS globally. Those included the NHAS Federal Implementation Plan and the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. initiative to implement virus prevention.
Waters accused Republicans, who are in the House majority, of being “controlled” by former President Donald Trump and the right-wing media, adding that they are standing in the way of funding.
“He pinpointed 2030 with that possibility. But, we certainly can’t reach it with these kinds of cuts that are being proposed by the right wing, by the Republicans,” she said. “We’ve got to put people in office who care about these kinds of issues.”
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