I know that most of you have been wondering what you can do to help make sure that the Ryan White CARE Act is re-authorized. God love you, all of you.
The best thing you can do is let your elected representatives know that this is something that you care about. A handwritten note, a very short note, is best. But, you know what? If you don't have time for that, just call them up. Here's all you need to know...
Here's the address and phone number for your president:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
The telephone number for the comment line is 202 456 1111. If you know who you want to talk to, and do not use this line to try to talk to the president, but if you need someone specific, call the switchboard at 202 456 1414. Either memorize these numbers or put them in your speed dial.
Or, you can even just use this special form, right here on the computer, couldn't be easier.
To find the DC address of your congressional representative go to this list. But, here's a little tip for you. Let's say you're not in the mood for all that clicking around on the internets. What you can do is just write the name of your congressperson on a nice envelope, on the next line write HOB, on the next line write Washington DC 20515. It is very likely to get there. Do the same thing for your senators except you use the letters SOB, and the zip is 20510. That's just for if you are too busy to actually look it up. And no snickering about the SOB thing. It stands for Senate Office Building. Why? What did you think it stood for?
Now, supposing you are feeling very industrious, you can earn extra points by writing to your senators and congressional representatives at their district offices. Oh yeah, the district office is where the local yokels work and they'll give your letter the buzz it deserves. This is mainly because most district offices don't get that many letters and about all they do is boring case work. So, make some district manager's day and send him a letter. The addresses are at the site above.
If you don't feel like writing. You can call. You don't even have to know the phone number. The only number you need is 202 224 3121. Again, you should memorize this or, at the very least, put it in your speed dial. All you have to do is ask for your congress member and you'll get right through.
When someone in your representative or senators office answers the phone, ask to speak to the LA for ...whatever. Well, don't actually say, "whatever." In this case you want to speak to "the LA for health care," or you might ask for "the LA who would answer questions about the Ryan White CARE Act." That way the LAs who are loitering in the lobby can jockey to see which of them wants to jump on it or dodge it, depending. LA stands for Legislative Assistant. It's a title given to recent college graduates who are the children of high-dollar donors and, occasionally, people who actually know something of the subject area they are responsible for. It is likely that the LA you speak to will be most earnest but will not answer your question. That's OK. Just kindly offer to call back again in about a week, and then shock them by actually doing it. Extra points if you remember their name!
You need to know a couple things about the Ryan White CARE Act before you call, though LAs sometimes like to help educate you and some of them are good at this so let them tell all they know.
A good overview of the act is available here. Also, here. Don't be confused by all the acronyms. It's plain enough. Just read the first couple of paragraphs of the second one.
One of the things I like to do is tell people exactly how much money we are talking about. Here in Texas, in 2007, we got $147,840,421. That's a lot of dough. Texas is one of only twelve states in the highest funding category. So, no matter what you think about HIV/AIDS funding, why would anyone turn down that kind of money?
In the same year, Fran's state, New York, got $333,968,334. That's more than any other state! Surly her senators don't want to loose that kind of money.
In Diane's state, Minnesota, the amount was significantly less at only $12,808,247. But, still.
When you give your senators a specific monetary amount it does two things: One, it helps them think of the measure as something that benefits all their constituents, not just the ones with HIV/AIDS; and it also lets them know that you care enough about it to have done some homework. People who know the issues also vote.
If you want to know how much Ryan White CARE Act money went to your state, go here. Click on your state to get the exact amount.
You can also let them know exactly how many of their constituents are living with AIDS. In Texas it's nearly 35,000. In NY 75,253 people live with AIDS. In MN it's 2,439. To find out about your state go here. Just roll the mouse over your state to get the number.
And, finally, if you find yourself dealing with hard-core Republicans you can always quote George W. Bush:
"Because HIV/AIDS brings suffering and fear into so many lives, I ask you to reauthorize the Ryan White Act to encourage prevention, and provide care and treatment to the victims of that disease. And as we update this important law, we must focus our efforts on fellow citizens with the highest rates of new cases, African-American men and women."
-President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, February 2, 2005
Almost no one is opposed to Ryan White. It's a funding source of last resort. But, and this has happened before, it's about to sunset (that means expire) and nobody has thought to re-authorize it. It can get temporary funding through a CR (that means continuing resolution) but it still has to be re-authorized. Try to use the word re-authorize.
Good on you, all of you, for your great concern on this. And thanks for standing with me, glowstick in hand, (see previous post) as we continue on.