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HIV Activists Arrested at US Capitol

HIV Activists Arrested at US Capitol. The House has proposed over $767M in cuts to domestic HIV programs.

Donald Cherry



HIV Activists Arrested at US Capitol. Seven HIV activists were arrested at the United States Capitol after staging a sit-in at the office of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). They were protesting Republican efforts to defund the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in the United States.  PEPFAR is a massively successful HIV prevention initiative in Africa that has saved over 25 million lives since its inception in 2003 by Republican President George W. Bush.

According to The Hill, activists from Housing Works in New York and the Health GAP (Global Access Project), two HIV social justice organizations, were arrested on charges of unlawful entry after refusing to stop demonstrating. Among the seven arrested were Housing Works CEO Charles King and Health GAP Executive Director Asia Russell.

VIDEO: HIV/AIDS activists protest inside Kevin McCarthy’s Capitol office. VIDEO: COURTESY OF: Michael K. Lavers via YouTube.

The activists are calling for a “clean,” five-year funding reauthorization of PEPFAR, which is set to expire on September 30. PEPFAR has become linked to abortion politics, with some Republicans concerned that funds from the program have indirectly supported abortions, a charge denied by Biden administration officials, according to The Washington Post.



HIV Advocates Speak Up

Picture: #SaveHIVFunding movement press conference on US Capitol grounds. They are fighting to protect HIV health services and programs in the House FY2024 spending package. PHOTO: COURTESY OF: File. Dated September 5, 2023.

URBT News was present when HIV/AIDS Leaders gathered on Capitol Hill for last week’s #SaveHIVFunding press conference. Advocates urged members of Congress to support and expand upon the FY2024 domestic HIV funding levels proposed by the bipartisan Senate LHHS appropriations subcommittee. The also called for Congress to pass a clean, five-year reauthorization of the President’s Emergency plan for AIDS Relief. Commonly known as PEPFAR, it serves as a bedrock for US global HIV/AIDS support.

Related URBT News article: HIV/AIDS Leaders Gathered on Capitol Hill to #SaveHIVFunding

At the #SaveHIVFunding press conference Malcom Reid, Chair of the Policy Action Committee for the U.S. PLHIV Caucus , exclaimed, “You cannot be pro-life and cut HIV fund.” You’re not pro-life if you’re going to let millions of people die. If you’re pro-life, then be pro-life. “Cutting funds shortens lifespans,” stated Reid. Do not cut people’s lives short.

He added, “These cuts will kill people! Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas. We are making significant progress in testing, diagnosing, treating and preventing HIV.”


According to Charles King with Housing Works in New York, “The House proposal would guarantee that the HIV epidemic will continue to a long time.” Adding, “The proposed bill is driven by racism and a total disregard for the lives of people who use drugs.”

VIDEO: Capitol Police remove HIV/AIDS activists from Kevin McCarthy’s office. VIDEO: COURTESY OF: Michael K. Lavers via YouTube.

However, House Republicans and conservative organizations are attempting to defund the program due to false claims that PEPFAR aids in abortion access. Conservative organizations such as the Heritage Foundation, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, and others have threatened to withdraw their support from lawmakers who approve PEPFAR funding. The battle is just one of several fronts in the House Republicans’ threat to shut down all federal government funding by September 30 if their demands are not met.


Rep. Maxine Waters Speaks Out at 2023 USCHA

PICTURE: Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California. PHOTO: COURTESY: Rep. Maxine Walter’s X profile.

URBT News was, also, present at the United States Conference on HIV/AIDS (USCHA). Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) blasted her GOP colleagues for proposing cuts to both national and international HIV programs.

Codified in 2006, Congresswoman Waters founded the Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI). Part F of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program includes the MAI. The MAI provides additional funding under the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Parts A, B, C, D, and F. Its purpose is to improve access to HIV care and health outcomes for racial and ethnic minority populations disproportionately affected by HIV.


During her passionate speech, Representative Waters, a fearless and outspoken advocate, said, “The Black community is always the last to get the attention and fund and testing.” She added, “We can do better than this!”

“We need the funding,” stated Congresswoman Waters. Later, she added, “The money is coming home!”

In a World AIDS Day 2020 press release, Representative Waters stated, “In honor of the millions of people we have lost to HIV/AIDS, I vow to continue my fight to keep our communities healthy and put an end to the HIV/AIDS pandemic once and for all.”

Related URBT News article: Day 1 – 2023 USCHA: A Love Letter to Black Women


Freedom Caucus

The House’s most conservative and anti-LGBTQ+ Republicans, known as the “Freedom Caucus,” have threatened to shut down the government if their demands are not met by September 30, according to Vox. Impeaching President Joe Biden and reducing military aid to Ukraine are among the demands. Funding increased anti-immigrant measures at the US-Mexico border is another demand.

Republicans hold a razor-thin House majority. McCarthy must rally his party’s moderates and extremists to support a final government funding bill by the end of the month. If must accomplish this or risk a government shutdown that voters will blame on Republicans. If McCarthy attempts to craft legislation that would pass with Republican and Democratic support while excluding the Freedom Caucus, members of the caucus may attempt to depose him as speaker.

Contacting Your Congressional Representative

Congress must fully fund our domestic and global anti-HIV efforts. PrEP4All and the #SaveHIVFunding movement are asking the public to use this form to contact your members of Congress right now!

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