As I write you today, on World AIDS Day, we are in the midst of an epidemic. Not an epidemic that we simply hear about on TV, or that affects places we’ve never been to, but an epidemic that affects our neighbors, our friends and thousands in our community.
Florida is home to the 3rd largest population of those infected with HIV in the nation. One in every 205 white men, one in every 113 Latino men, and one in every 42 African American men is living with the AIDS virus in our state. Nationally, AIDS is the leading cause of death among young African American women.
Critical funding for AIDS education, prevention and drug assistance programs in Florida has taken a beating under the Republican-led Legislature’s budget whacking policies of the last decade. Florida already has the longest wait list in the nation for the drug assistance program with over 3,900 people in need of lifesaving medication. Under Gov. Rick Scott and our current GOP controlled Legislature, the future doesn’t look bright for these programs.
In October, US Senator Bill Nelson joined Sir Elton John in bringing awareness to the record number of Americans – and specifically Floridians – living with HIV/AIDS and the plight of thousands of Floridians who are in danger of losing their medication due to budget cuts. President Obama has championed the cause, asking the US Congress for an increase in funding for AIDS programs. We must demand the same of our Florida leaders.
Too many Floridians – nearly 10,000 people – are dependent on these lifesaving programs. We must demand from our elected officials that these programs, and AIDS prevention and education, receive the funding that they need to save lives and prevent the spread of disease.
You can get involved in the events of World AIDS Day, and join thousands of people across the nation – including President Obama – in working to educate and prevent the disease from spreading.
Chairman, Florida Democratic Party