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I have seen families living in absolute fear at the thought that one of their family members' HIV positive status might be disclosed. I witness people who are HIV positive and who are healthy, contributing members of our society, lose their jobs, lose their homes, their medical insurance and other necessities of life due to discrimination.
The question always arises how can people be so mean? How can our society be so cruel? With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Congress will be able to lead our societal structures in providing a compassionate response of equal protection to people with disabilities in our Nation,
including people with HIV infection. These stories and hundreds like them provide the impe tus for action for the National Commission on AIDS and for millions of compassionate and concerned Americans.
The wonderful work of many commissions and task forces that have addressed the AIDS epidemic have virtually expressed unanimous agreement that antidiscrimination protections are the cornerstone to addressing the complex public policy issues presented by AIDS. The good work of these dedicated and concerned citizens has moved many city and State legislatures to enact antidiscrimination measures. But a great deal more needs to be done.
In my own experience, neither the city councils of Dallas County nor the Texas State Legislature have formally adopted the recommendations made by the commissions established to advise them. The action by the U.S. Senate last month was the first hopeful and direct statement that perhaps the Congress will take the leadership and move the ADA, with the blessing of President Bush, in a timely manner.
Please be assured that for myself, the Commission and most importantly persons living with HIV and their loved ones, this action is enthusiastically welcomed. Mr. Chairman, our Nation's public policy is dependent on the responsible and informed actions of Congress. The ADA is a bill that utilizes 15 years of antidiscrimination protections for people with disabilities in federally assisted programs and extends those protections to the private sector.
The bill's inclusion of people with HIV infection, AIDS and those who care for them is a hallmark in our fight against this epidemic. There may be yet challenges against inclusion of such individuals. Exclusion would be a tragic mistake. As Secretary Sullivan, a fellow Commissioner has stated, discrimination against individuals with a virus is unacceptable. This administration is committed to enacting legislation that will prohibit such discrimination.
Therefore, I urge you to remember that this bill has the strong support of the President. Bipartisan leadership of the Congress, a multitude of national organizations including public health professionals, religious communities, service organizations and advocacy groups, and particularly the National Commission on AIDS.
We as a nation have the blessings of wealth and resources. We pride ourselves in our compassion and spirit. In passing the ADA, the Congress will embody the best of the American spirit and send the needed message that equal rights and compassion are a standard that this Nation will uphold with pride and vigilance.
I would like to submit additional materials for the record, including letters of support and policy statements from our religious communities.
Mr. EDWARDS. Without objection, they will be received and made part of the record.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Allen follows:)
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REV. Scott ALLEN, COMMISSIONER, NATIONAL COMMISSION
ON AIDS, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I am Rev. Scott Allen, a commissioner on the Congressionally mandated National Commission on AIDS. I am pleased to provide testimony on the importance of the Americans with Disabilities Act, with a particular focus on anti-discrimination protections for people with HIV-related conditions.
My work with AIDS has been varied and diverse. I am employed by the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. My specific experience with AIDS began when I was the founding Director of the AIDS Interfaith Network of Dallas, an organization that provides AIDS education for our religious communities and pastoral care for persons living with AIDS as well as their family members and loved
In addition, I have served as a member of the Dallas County AIDS Planning
Commission and on the Legislative Task Force on AIDS for the state of Texas, chairing
the State's Responsibility Subcommittee.
As a citizen, minister and participant in the development of AIDS policy at the local and
state level and now as a member of the National Commission on AIDS, I fully support
the Americans with Disabilities Act. I urge the House to move expeditiously so as to provide important redress for the acts of discrimination that have such devastating
impacts on the lives of many Americans, particularly those with the HIV virus and with
As a commissioner for the National Commission on AIDS, I am charged with the
important task of advising Congress on the implementation of the recommendations of
the President's Commission on the HIV Epidemic. Admiral Watkins and the other
commissioners are to be commended for their exhaustive and thoughtful articulation of
the important issues related to the HIV epidemic. As you well know, the centerpiece of
their recommendations was the passage of a bill to address the discrimination
experienced by people with AIDS and HIV infection. They specifically recommended:
Comprehensive federal anti-discrimination legislation which prohibits
discrimination against persons with disabilities in the public and private sectors,
including employment, housing, public accommodations, and participation in
government programs, should be enacted. All persons with symptomatic or
asymptomatic HIV infection should be clearly included as persons with disabilities
who are covered by the anti-discrimination protections of this legislation.
That recommendation was endorsed by President Bush immediately after issuance of the
Commission's report. One year after the President's Commission made the recommendation the President endorsed the ADA as it moved through the Senate. The
President's endorsement was clearly a key factor in the Senate's overwhelming passage of
the ADA. It is now incumbent upon the Congress, with the assistance of the National
Commission, to move this bill as quickly as possible and without damaging amendments. Truly, with an epidemic that has affected more than 100,000 Americans and with 37
million other Americans with a disability awaiting the protections guaranteed under this act, the political and moral imperatives are clear.
To underscore the priority of the ADA, the National Commission on AIDS passed its
first resolution in support of this bill. We stated:
"We, the members of the National Commission on Acquired Immunc Deficiency Syndrome, strongly support passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, legislation which would implement the key recommendation of the Presidential
Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic.
People living with AIDS and HIV infection, and those regarded as such, deserve the same discrimination protections as all people with disabilities. Such
protections from discrimination are not only necessary to enhance the quality of
life for people with AIDS and HIV infection, they are as the Presidential
Commission and the Institute of Medicine have reported, the linchpin of our
nation's effort to control the HIV epidemic.
Thousands of Americans who would seek voluntary counseling and testing services
and many who need life prolonging medical treatment will not come forward if
they believe that doing so could result in the loss of their job or lack of access to
public accommodations. Legislation that is based not only on compassion, but
sound public health principles, is a must if we are to reach and assist these
We are extremely pleased that the majority of the United States Senate and the
White House have made a bi-partisan commitment to enact the Americans with
Disabilities Act. We oppose any effort to reduce the scope of coverage of the present bill, particularly in respect to HIV, the specific focus of this Commission. The ADA will provide a clear and comprehensive mandate to greatly extend
discrimination protections for people with disabilities. We are proud to endorse
this landmark legislation."
A diagnosis of HIV infection and its related diseases is clearly a devastating event in a
person's life. The subsequent acts of irrational discrimination that occur have been one
of the unfortunate hallmarks of our nation's response to the HIV epidemic A review of
the front page headlines over the past eight years will awaken in most of us the urgent
need for a bill like the Americans with Disabilities Act. Remember: Ryan White
denied entry to school; the Ray family -- burned from their home; a woman with
denied entry with her children to a public swimming pool; a bright young
forced into poverty because he was fired from his job.
The ADA will not
be able to address all forms of private discrimination, but it will provide protection in