CHICAGO — The Campaign to End AIDS (C2EA) kicked off its nationwide movement on this city’s Magnificent Mile Oct. 1. Two hundred protesters emphasized the need to reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act, which expired Sept. 30. The CARE Act provides federal funds for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment for people with AIDS and HIV.

Supporters’ signs and banners drew attention to President Bush’s cuts in AIDS programs and his proposal to transfer money away from urban areas, where 70 percent of the patients live, to rural areas, which have a much smaller number of affected people.

Bush’s proposal would cut many supportive service agencies and AIDS programs, including housing, case management, transportation, nutrition, mental health services and medically necessary alternative therapies, in urban America. It would severely cut funds for medication (called ADAP) by only paying for certain drugs, even though many HIV victims cannot take these drugs due to side effects.

Charles King, national leader of C2EA, led the crowd in chanting, “We can end AIDS. We have the heart.” He said that $80 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy show how the Bush administration ignores AIDS, “a disease of poverty and race.” And Jim Pickett, Illinois coordinator for C2EA, accused the Bush administration of moving from a policy of disease prevention through the use of condoms to the deadly policy of abstinence, which has never worked.

Many individuals who are living with HIV/AIDS told their own stories.

Joseph, 51, noted that he might lose the living quarters which he recently acquired with a voucher from a Ryan White program. All of the supportive services that he depends on for a healthy and independent life could now be cut by the Bush administration’s war against the needy. His sign read, “People with AIDS vote.”

Jamie, a 43-year-old AIDS victim from a neighboring northwest suburb, noted that she does not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, so “the Ryan White funding and ADAP are my only access to medication.”

Both Joseph and Jamie work, but do not have health insurance.

Hope is not lost. Next year we have a big congressional election year struggle. Many Republicans come from urban areas which are facing cuts in Ryan White funding. People should contact Congress and protest any cuts in Ryan White funds. You can also get more information at www.aidschicago.org and www.endaidsnow.org. It is true — people with AIDS and those who have a heart do vote.

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