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State of the Union Stresses Domestic AIDS Battle

In his State of the Union address, President Bush briefly addressed HIV/AIDS. He concentrated his remarks on domestic AIDS legislation: the “Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act.”

Mr. Bush said, “Because HIV/AIDS brings suffering and fear into so many lives, I ask you to reauthorize the Ryan White Act to encourage prevention and provide care and treatment to the victims of that disease. And as we update this important law, we must focus our efforts on fellow citizens with the highest rates of new cases, African American men and women.”

Ryan White was a hemophiliac who contracted HIV/AIDS through contaminated blood products. His story drew national attention to AIDS in the United States. He died in 1990 at age 19.

The act was originally approved in August of 1990, several month’s after the teenager’s death, and reauthorized for a second, five-year term in 1996.

For reaction to Mr. Bush’s comments, English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua spoke to Dr. Pat Hawkins of the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, DC. The clinic provides AIDS treatment for thousands of people in the Washington area. Dr. Hawkins praised the president’s remarks.

She said, “I was very excited to hear him mention Ryan White and HIV/AIDS on the domestic front. We have all been very supportive of his efforts in the global arena. But the domestic issues have kind of dropped by the wayside in terms of public attention and visibility. So, I was very pleased to hear him say it in the State of the Union message.”

Dr. Hawkins says the act funds the major HIV/AIDS services in the United States. She was concerned the issue might not get the attention she wanted because of the “pressing concerns facing the country.” She says the Ryan White Act “is by far the largest source of HIV/AIDS funding, and in some places it is the only source of funding. In poor parts of the United States, the Mississippi Delta and places like that, Ryan White is actually the only source of stable funding for HIV/AIDS outside of Medicaid.”

Medicaid is a program jointly funded by the federal and state governments and pays for medical assistance for certain low-income individuals and families.