The letter below was sent to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra from the following members of Congress: Maxine Waters, Bill Pascrell, Jr., Joaquin Castro, Barbara Lee, Raúl M. Grijalva, and Nanette Diaz Barragán. The Black AIDS Institute, Latino Commission on AIDS, NMAC, and the SF Community Health Center are working with key members to bring the Minority AIDS Initiative back to its original intent.
Washington, D.C. 20515September 1, 2022
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue S.W.
Washington, DC 20201Dear Secretary Becerra:
We write to urge you to return the Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI) to its originally intended purpose of directing strategic HIV resources to minority-led organizations in order to close the racial and ethnic gap in the HIV epidemic. Minority-led organizations have the cultural competence and proximity to the affected communities that make them ideal partners for helping to end the epidemic.
Earlier this year, we requested that the House Appropriations Committee include language in the report to accompany the FY 2023 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill, recommending that the Secretary of Health and Human Services direct MAI resources to minority-led organizations. In response to our request, the Committee included the following language under the subheading, “Minority HIV/AIDS Fund:” “The Committee […] encourages the Secretary to prioritize MHAF grants to HIV-based agencies that are minority led with preference given to organizations led by women, men, and transgender persons who identify as African American/Black, Latino, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian American, and/or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.”
It has come to our attention that this language, and its inclusion under the aforementioned subheading, could be interpreted as applying solely to the $60,000,000 that the Committee provided specifically for the Minority HIV/AIDS Fund, which is managed by your office within HHS. We are writing, therefore, to clarify that it is our intent that this language be applied to all MAI funds controlled by all four of the HHS agencies involved in the administration of the MAI. These agencies include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the Office of the Secretary.
Of course, we realize that the guidance included in the FY 2023 report will not have standing until Congress has enacted a final Omnibus Appropriations Bill for FY 2023. Nevertheless, we urge you to use your discretion to begin immediately to direct MAI resources to minority-led organizations that have the cultural competence and proximity that enables them to serve minority communities effectively, and to do so across all four of the aforementioned HHS agencies.
We are grateful for your attention to our concerns, and we respectfully request a response from you prior to November 15, 2022. Furthermore, once an Omnibus Appropriations Bill for FY 2023 has been enacted, we would appreciate confirmation from the directors of each of the relevant agencies of their intent to comply with the guidance in the FY 2023 report.
Secretary Becerra and Assistant Secretary Rachel Levine, it’s your move. CDC, HRSA, SAMHSA, and the Secretary’s Office need guidance to quickly address this inequity. As we continue to see with HIV, COVID and now Monkeypox, people of color shoulder a disproportionate burden of disease. When the Congressional Black Caucus works with leaders from the Congressional Hispanic and other Caucuses provide this guidance, it’s time to do the right thing!
Yours in the Struggle,