This morning I awoke to a phone call from US Senator Bill Nelson's office to explain that last week Republicans voted along party lines against the Harkin Amendment. The Harkin Amendment would have protected the $35 million in the continuing resolution which President Obama committed on World AIDS Day to eliminate wait lists for our crippled AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP). In President Obama's request to Congress, he asked them to protect this critical funding.
The AIDS Drug Assistance Program is a federally funded program administered by states and designed to serve as a safety net to ensure needy and vulnerable people living with HIV/AIDS can access life-saving HIV medications.
The House of Representatives already passed their version of a continuing resolution and did not include this funding that was critical for us to be an AIDS free generation.
While the possibility looks dismal, Nelson's office committed to continue work with his colleagues and explore options to protect the $35 million in funding for the drug assistance programs.
Last month I received a letter from Senator Marco Rubio explaining why he opposed increased funding levels in a continuing resolution. What was missing from Rubio's letter was any compassion for needy and vulnerable people living with HIV/AIDS with no alternative access to lifesaving medications. Rubio letter was absent of any message on what leadership he will provide to ensure an AIDS free generation.
What's clear to me, with Republican attempts to defund the Affordable Care Act and other health programs, AIDS, once again, is a victim of ideology, and we, as people living with HIV/AIDS, are again victims at the hands of congressional republicans. Florida is poised to lose approximately $5 million - which is essential to provide an estimated 500 people with life-saving medications.
Congressional Republicans need to step up to the plate and prove to the world that we are serious about our nation's commitment to an AIDS free generation.