Someone once wrote, “If you hear me talking, listen to what I’m not saying.” That quote certainly encapsulates last night’s State of the Union address by President Bush. By devoting only two sentences to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the president barely addressed a disease that “nearly 1 million people in the United States” and over “35 million people worldwide” cope with everyday. But he still said a lot.
Sentence One: “…I ask you to reauthorize the Ryan White Act to encourage prevention, and provide care and treatment to the victims of that disease.”
President Bush provides no comment about funding for the Act and that is likely because “he has consistently sought to curtail [its] spending increases.” With all his claims of a newfound respect for fiscal responsibility, President Bush flat-funded the majority of the Act’s social programs, not appropriating any more funds for the New Year. However, the cost of HIV/AIDS in our society is not stagnant. With about 14,000 new infections each day, flat-funding a program like the Ryan White Act “really means a decrease. There are always more and more people diagnosed with HIV and more and more people who need these services. That means you have less money to take care of all the HIV patients than you did the year before.” For example, in 2004, the Ryan White Act actually saw a $5 million decrease in funding.
Perhaps, Vice President Cheney is still holding a grudge; he “was just one of 13 House members to vote against the precursor to the Ryan White CARE Act in 1988 — the AIDS Federal Policy Act.”
(Then again, it might be better that the administration isn’t provided with more federal funds. Its quest for more power over the distribution of the Ryan White CARE Act would include funneling money away from social services and putting more towards faith-based organizations. Rev. Franklin Graham, the leader of one of the far-right religious groups that received money, once stated, “Only a massive societal change in behavior can stop the spread of AIDS, and only Jesus Christ can bring about this change.”)