(White Plains, New York) –– Ahead of World AIDS Day 2019, people living with HIV, doctors, and low-income New Yorkers from New York City, Yonkers, Westchester, and Albany arrived unannounced at the local office of Rep. Nita Lowey, the chairperson of the House Appropriations committee.
The activists were demanding the Rep. Lowey champion increased funding for global AIDS in FY20 and FY21. She has not worked to increase funding for the global AIDS program in eight years.
The organizers were demanding a $1 billion increase for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and housing for low-income people living with HIV in New York state through a Point of Access to Housing and Services (PATHS) bill, and an in-person meeting with Rep. Lowey to discuss these interventions.
Rep. Lowey’s office agreed to give the organizers a meeting with the representative herself in mid-December in Washington DC, and an in-person follow-up meeting in White Plains in the new year.
Rep. Lowey’s office also prepared a World AIDS Day press statement five days before World AIDS Day and ahead of the protesters arrival, detailing Rep. Lowey’s commitment to HIV domestically and globally.
“PEPFAR needs a $1 billion increase to truly accelerate scale up of treatment and prevention,” said Emily Sanderson, U.S. National Organizer with Health GAP. “That’s why we’re calling for a minimum scale up of $150 million for PEPFAR in FY20 and $500 million in FY21. We are calling on Rep. Lowey to show the leadership needed to defeat HIV during her last year in Congress.”
Despite widespread bipartisan support for PEPFAR, lawmakers including Rep. Lowey have refused to commit to the funding increases the program requires to support people living with HIV around the world. According to UNAIDS, the HIV funding gap is widening; as a result, the scientific tools that have the power to defeat HIV are not being deployed.
“As a strong progressive voice in the Democratic party, Nita Lowey has a track record for fighting attacks on human rights-based responses to HIV. We need her to use her progressive voice to support low-income New Yorkers with HIV in accessing safe housing,” said Jason Walker from VOCAL-NY.
AIDS won’t be defeated in New York state or around the world until the funding gap for prevention, treatment, and social services is closed, according to the organizers. People living with HIV need effective treatment, social programs, and resources in order to thrive. During Rep. Lowey’s tenure as chair of the House Appropriations Committee and the subcommittee on Foreign Operations, U.S. funding for global AIDS treatment and prevention through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has been flatlined. As a result, essential interventions such as better testing options for newborns exposed to HIV during pregnancy or improved, less toxic TB prevention regimens are not being taken to scale–relegating people to inferior interventions.