With the passage of the new American Health Care Act through the House of Representatives, it’s more important now than ever to advocate for a continuation of HIV funding to the CDC.
Compared to other terminal conditions, HIV gets a disproportionate sum of federal funding, but in our view this is more than justified and here’s why.
When HIV first afflicted the USA it was coined as GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency). By labeling it as a gay disease, federal funding was insignificant at best. President Reagan refused to acknowledge there was even an issue to deal with. When doctors at the CDC asked for more funding, they were routinely denied. In the first year of the AIDS/ HIV epidemic there were more than 1,000 deaths with less than $1 million spent on research. In contrast, in 1976 the CDC spent $9 Million fighting an outbreak of Legionnaires disease which infected only 211 and killed less that 30 people. Reagan didn’t even speak of the epidemic until six years after the initial outbreak, and after his full two-terms in office, over 70,000 people had died from the disease.
The point I am trying to illustrate here is the prevalence of guilt. The federal government is playing catch-up while trying to right the wrongs of the past.
Also, let us look at the age demographics of people newly diagnosed with HIV. The highest percentage comes from the 24-29 age bracket. Obviously there is a great cause for an saving the lives of these young people. When you save a life of a younger person afflicted with HIV, who knows what they might achieve in their life? You only need to save one Steven Hawking or Nelson Mandela or one Bill Gates or Steve Jobs to change the world.
We sincerely hope and believe that in the next generation a cure will be found for HIV/ AIDS. The level of funding needs to be maintained and steadily increased until this days comes. In the 35 years since the epidemic came to the fore in the USA, huge steps have been made in the testing, control, education and treatment of this devastating disease. Let us now be the leaders in keeping the money flowing to make sure people living with the disease lead full and fulfilling lives. It is after all an investment in the future of our society to continue to maintain, if not increase the level of federal funding to HIV research, clinical trials and care.
The LGBTQ Heritage Team