Political Neglect


Vice Presidential 2004 Debate:

In America, “Black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are 13 times more likely to die of AIDS than their [white] counterparts”

"I have not heard those numbers with respect to African- American women.  
I was not aware that it was -- that they're in epidemic"
     -- Vice President Cheney  

Vice Presidential Debates    October 5th, 2004

Beyond politics in general, last night’s debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards was particularly important for the role it played in highlighting and clarifying the differences between the Republican and Democratic campaigns on issues important to Black people.

One reason for that clarification is that a sister, Gwen Ifill, was the moderator asking questions. At one point, she noted that in America “Black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are 13 times more likely to die of the (AIDS) disease than their counterparts” in this country.

You know the chance of that issue being raised by any of the White men who are moderating the presidential face-offs is slim. Then she continued: “What should the government's role be in helping to end the growth of this epidemic?”

The question went to Cheney, who had to confess: “I have not heard those numbers with respect to African-American women. I was not aware that it was -- they're in epidemic.”

That’s a stunning announcement for a man in his position. Not because he did not know the precise numbers, but because he was not aware of the epidemic spreading in Black communities. If you are not aware of the epidemic, how can you even begin to fight it?

It’s that lack of concern, that lack of knowledge, that lack of connection that rings hollow Republican talk of reaching out to African Americans. Cheney did mention the $15 million the Bush administration is spending to fight AIDS internationally. That’s good, but it’s too little money wrapped in an ill-designed program.
    excerpted from BET.COM 

Both Vice Presidential Candidates Avoided
Discussing Domestic AIDS Issues in Debate


MODERATOR GWEN IFILL: I will talk to you about health care, Mr. Vice President. You have two minutes. But in particular, I want to talk to you about AIDS, and not about AIDS in China or Africa, but AIDS right here in this country, where black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are 13 times more likely to die of the disease than their counterparts.

What should the government's role be in helping to end the growth of this epidemic?

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: Well, this is a great tragedy, Gwen, when you think about the enormous cost here in the United States and around the world of the AIDS epidemic -- pandemic, really. Millions of lives lost, millions more infected and facing a very bleak future.

In some parts of the world, we've got the entire, sort of, productive generation has been eliminated as a result of AIDS, all except for old folks and kids -- nobody to do the basic work that runs an economy.

The president has been deeply concerned about it. He has moved and proposed and gotten through the Congress authorization for $15 billion to help in the international effort, to be targeted in those places where we need to do everything we can, through a combination of education as well as providing the kinds of medicines that will help people control the infection.

Here in the United States, we've made significant progress. I have not heard those numbers with respect to African- American women. I was not aware that it was -- that they're in epidemic there, because we have made progress in terms of the overall rate of AIDS infection, and I think primarily through a combination of education and public awareness as well as the development, as a result of research, of drugs that allow people to live longer lives even though they are infected -- obviously we need to do more of that.

IFILL: Senator Edwards, you have 90 seconds.

CANDIDATE JOHN EDWARDS: Well, first, with respect to what's happening in Africa and Russia and in other places around the world, the vice president spoke about the $15 billion for AIDS. John Kerry and I believe that needs to be doubled.
And I might add, on the first year of their commitment, they came up significantly short of what they had promised.

And we probably won't get a chance to talk about Africa. Let me just say a couple of things.

The AIDS epidemic in Africa, which is killing millions and millions of people and is a frightening thing not just for the people of Africa but also for the rest of the world, that, combined with the genocide that we're now seeing in Sudan, are two huge moral issues for the United States of America, which John Kerry spoke about eloquently last Thursday night.

Here at home we need to do much more. And the vice president spoke about doing research, making sure we have the drugs available, making sure that we do everything possible to have prevention. But it's a bigger question than that.

You know, we have 5 million Americans who've lost their health care coverage in the last four years; 45 million Americans without health care coverage. We have children who don't have health care coverage.

If kids and adults don't have access to preventative care, if they're not getting the health care that they need day after day after day, the possibility of not only developing AIDS and having a problem -- having a problem -- a life-threatening problem, but the problem of developing other life-threatening diseases is there every day of their lives.

video of Cheney's and Edwards' responses to HIV/AIDS is available online in RealPlayer.

The responses from both Cheney and Edwards "lacked specific plans for addressing the disproportionate impact of HIV on women of color" in the United States and "indicat[e] the urgent and ongoing need for increased awareness and education of both campaigns on this vital domestic issue," according to an AIDSVote.org release. The statement "urges the audience participants and moderators of the two final presidential debates to demand specific and detailed answers from the candidates about their HIV/AIDS policies"   AIDSVote.org Release

It is "shock[ing]" that Cheney did not know about the disproportionate effect of HIV on black women and "disappoint[ing]" that Edwards "lost an important opportunity to discuss how HIV affects African-American women," a NAPWA release says. Organizations and health departments across the country are "stalled for lack of funds" to implement HIV/AIDS prevention and education programs, and CDC's budget for HIV programs has "remained essentially flat for the last three years," according to the release. Moreover, Edwards "missed" an opportunity to discuss the need to increase funding for domestic HIV/AIDS treatment, care, prevention and housing, according to the release.   National Association of People with AIDS

How Cheney "managed to miss one of the most significant turns in the national HIV epidemic in the last several years is a mystery," columnist Silja Talvi writes in an AlterNet opinion piece. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States "hasn't gone away" but has "been busy making its home in the heart of the African-American community," according to Talvi, who adds that Cheney's response shows that the Bush administration has "not only ignored public health issues facing black communities (and communities of color more broadly) but has also forced the abstinence-or-else mantra down the throats of funding recipients." Edwards also "skirted" the question, "pointing instead at the need for more money for the global fight against AIDS," Talvi writes, concluding, "The ball dropped and bounced and rolled away as if it were invisible. And that's a damn shame"    AlterNet

People whose jobs revolve around making life better for those with HIV/AIDS were reeling this week in response to remarks made by Vice President Dick Cheney during Tuesday’s vice-presidential debate. As much as anything, AIDS activists say, it was Cheney’s lack of knowledge about the disease that seemed most stunning. “I think it’s shocking that he didn’t know any more than what he said,” said Ken Malone, executive director of the Assistance Fund in Houston, Texas. At the Montrose Clinic in Houston, there is not one person on staff who didn’t know exactly what Gwen Ifill was talking about. Clinic Education Director Eric Rowland said anyone at the clinic could have told Ifill that data from the Texas Department of Health indicates that in Harris County, black women are eight times more likely to contract HIV than white or Hispanic women. At the Montrose Clinic, he said, “The rate of infection among African American men and women has been increasing over the past three years. Over the last three or four years, our case load has involved more African American men and women.” At the same time, Rowland said, funding through the Ryan White Care Act has been flatlined. “Advocacy groups are pushing very hard to get an increase in funding for the Ryan White Funds,” he said. “At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control are pushing really hard for increased HIV testing.” The Montrose Clinic recently was awarded funds to perform rapid testing of gay and bisexual men. The problem is, he said, when those new cases are diagnosed, eventually there may not be funds available to help.   HoustonVoice.com

Ms. Saint Cyr, from Harlem's Iris House, sees daily what some politicians apparently cannot: H.I.V. and AIDS have increased to crisis proportions among African-American and Hispanic women. She is frustrated that Senator John Edwards sidestepped the issue during the vice presidential debate. And she is appalled that Vice President Dick Cheney admitted that he had no idea just how catastrophic the disease had been for African-American women, who are dying at a 13 times greater rate than white women. Advocates like Ms. Saint Cyr said the statistics on the epidemic in urban America are hardly a secret. The United Nations said that North America had the world's largest increase in infections among women between 2001 and 2003. Federal data shows that although African-American and Hispanic women account for less than 25 percent of the country's female population, they account for almost 80 percent of all female AIDS cases reported to date. One number still staggers Ms. Saint Cyr: 10. That is how many people affiliated with her group who have died from AIDS since the summer. "How can one agency lose so many people?" she said. "I don't know what else I can do, and then I hear Cheney say he doesn't know the problem? It's devastating." Ms. Saint Cyr is now trying to figure out how to jump-start a prevention program whose federal funds ran out this year. While attempting to spare a future generation from the disease, she has to deal with a federal government that stresses abstinence over condoms." It is everywhere, but it is not really a priority to the government," she said. "We have a president who talks about not leaving any child behind, but how many kids are orphaned by the disease? How many parents lose their lives prematurely?"   excerpted from New York Times  October 19, 2004

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