Sen. Kennedy made the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS a priority
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation mourns the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy and celebrates his lifetime commitment to social justice and access to health care for all Americans. Sen. Kennedy, whose fearless leadership during the earliest years of the AIDS epidemic was responsible for legislation that characterizes the best of the federal response to the crisis, was a peerless champion of the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS during three decades of a monumental legislative career.
Sen. Kennedy’s accomplishments also include landmark legislation protecting the rights of women and pioneering support for education, economic justice and equality for lesbian and gay Americans.
“Before most Americans understood anything about the looming disaster, Sen. Kennedy made the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS a priority,” said Mark Cloutier, Foundation CEO. “When his Senate peers were arguing about quarantines and imprisonment, Sen. Kennedy brought the Ryan White CARE Act to the floor of the Senate where his tenacious defense of human rights steered this pivotal bill through Congress, saving hundreds of thousands of American lives.”
The Ryan White legislation created systems of care for the uninsured and underinsured, equipped hard-hit cities like San Francisco with resources to lower the death rate until highly active antiretroviral therapy [HAART] appeared in 1996. Because Ryan White built a comprehensive health care and support system, access to HAART led to a dramatic reduction in AIDS-related deaths, converting HIV to chronic, manageable disease. When Ryan White was reviewed in 2007, Sen. Kennedy made sure the new bill included additional support for chronic care, quality of life, and new therapies benefiting more than one million Americans then living with HIV.
Sen. Kennedy also played key roles in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Housing for People with AIDS Act and the Family Medical Leave Act, and championed early changes to the Food and Drug Administration’s review process that rescued lifesaving antiretroviral treatments from meddlesome bureaucracy.
Describing his advocacy for universal health coverage as "the passion of my life," Sen. Kennedy remained a vital ally in the current movement toward health care reform.
“As more and more Americans recognize the incontrovertible need for affordable, universal quality health care, we must let Sen. Kennedy’s passion inform our commitment, demanding reform that includes a public option. We must ensure the lasting legacy of his vision by enshrining it in health care for all Americans,” Cloutier said.
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation provides leadership to prevent new HIV infections. Linking community experience with science, the Foundation develops ground-breaking prevention programs and bold policy initiatives to promote health and create sustainable progress against HIV. Established in 1982, the Foundation refuses to accept that HIV transmission is inevitable.