Open Letter to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin

December 6, 2011

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, met with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and the Service Providers Council on Friday, Dec. 2, 2011, to discuss the AIDS epidemic and concerns that the political climate in Washington could threaten progress. What follows is an open letter of thanks to Sen. Durbin for his support.

December 5, 2011
The Honorable Richard J. Durbin
United States Senate
711 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

Dear Sen. Durbin,

Thank you for taking the time to meet with us on Friday, one day after World AIDS Day, to discuss the ongoing AIDS epidemic in Chicago and throughout the country.

We count you as an important ally in this fight against AIDS. As you noted, your own political career runs parallel to this 30-year epidemic. Since you frightfully gathered your three children to talk about sex at the dawn of AIDS, we’ve made significant progress.

There have been groundbreaking medical advances in HIV prevention, developments that allow us to envision an AIDS-free generation. But, as we discussed, there remain significant political and economic challenges that threaten the gains made in recent years.

Particularly, we’re concerned that automatic deficit reductions will result in harmful cuts to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and research programs. We understand that programs like Social Security and Medicaid are protected from the sequester but we’re less confident about other important programs, such as Ryan White, the AIDS Drug Assistance Program and critical research funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health.

But there are other threats, too, such as partisan opposition to the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and, on the state level, enforcement of antiquated HIV criminal transmission laws that perpetuate fear and stigma.

We hope you will continue to be a fierce advocate for the 1.2 millions living with HIV/AIDS on all of these fronts. In particular, we appreciate your extraordinary leadership on allowing federal funding to be used for syringe exchanges, despite efforts to reinstate the ban that defy the solid, scientific evidence of effectiveness.

We would also like to thank Mr. Michael Bauer, who helped facilitate our meeting, and all the members of the Service Providers Council (SPC) who took time out of their own busy schedules to participate. A list of participants is included below. SPC members make a difference daily with their passionate advocacy and tireless work in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Please know, Sen. Durbin, that we plan on doing our part. As you observed, it’s critical to continue telling the human story of this epidemic. Indeed, those affected by HIV/AIDS are not just numbers. They are our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, friends and lovers.

Thank you for listening to us. No question – in these troublesome times, we need friends like you in Washington’s halls of power. We appreciate your unwavering support.

David Ernesto Munar
CEO/President of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago

Participants in the Dec. 2, 2011 meeting with Sen. Dick Durbin,
AIDS Foundation of Chicago Service Providers Council

Ann Fisher, AIDS Legal Council of Chicago
Michelle Wetzel, Alexian Brothers Bonaventure House
Jing Zhang, Asian Human Services
Maurice Chapman, Austin Health Center CBC Initiative
Antoine Maxwell, Brothers Health Collective
Dr. Alan Landay, Chicago Center for AIDS Research
Chris Brown, Chicago Department of Public Health
Deborah Johnson, Christian Community Health Center
Jamal Edwards, Howard Brown Health Center
Joe Hollendoner, Howard Brown Health Center
Tere Garate, Illinois Department of Public Health
Dr. Mildred Williamson, Illinois Department of Public Health
Michelle Gilbert, Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago
Ricardo Rivera, Midwest AIDS Training + Education Center
David Roesler, Open Door Clinic
Anne Statton, Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative
Pete McLoyd, Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center
Curtis Reed, Chair of the Board of Directors, AIDS Foundation of Chicago

Categorized under National.

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