R. HUNTER KURTZ
DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
AT THE HOPWA 25TH ANNIVERSARY EVENT
June 22, 2017
As prepared for delivery. The speaker may add or subtract comments during his presentation.
Thank you and good morning. Thank you for that generous introduction. Welcome to the Brooke-Mondale Auditorium, two people who would have been proud that you are meeting here. This setting makes me think of one of them, Edward Brooke, and his life. Senator Brooke grew up near here, just a few streets away, went to Dunbar High School, and then Howard University. He devoted his life of public service to people in low income housing. He was one of us. It is fitting that we meet in this place.
I want to congratulate the HOPWA Office and its staff on this 25th Anniversary. This is an important milestone. A quarter of a century working with the impact of a relatively young disease. This is THE federal program dealing with the housing needs of people with HIV/AIDS. HOPWA is a strong statement about our national commitment to families living with HIV/AIDS. We want to be there with those challenged with HIV/AIDS. And I want to emphasize that: working together. And people living with HIV. Thanks to advancements in medical science people with HIV are not waiting for a death sentence. Magic Johnson and others are living meaningful, full lives after an HIV diagnosis. And, here at HUD, we recognize this with our HOPWA program and our nation's support in assisted living and affordable housing.
And I also want to thank our panelists: David Vos, Nancy Bernsteine, and Shawn Lang. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and perspectives. We will all benefit.
Secretary Carson wanted to be here today. As a doctor, he knows the vast accomplishment marked by this day. But, sadly, he could not. He was asked to meet with some members of Congress and was told that meeting could not wait. He sends his greetings and his support.
I asked him if I could speak instead. I wanted to be here. In the department, we are proud of your work. And this is very personal for me. I started at HUD sitting next door to the HOPWA Office and to David. I knew that there was powerful determination in that office. Every day I could see that the HOPWA program was the human face of government. You made a difference. Many people, often vulnerable people, trusted you, and benefitted from your efforts. They counted on you. You tried to be a friend and serve those who needed our help.
David, the staff of the HOPWA office, and others here in HUD, turned what I thought was going to be a few years learning about HUD, into a career of working in and around HUD and its programs. And for that I want to thank David and the HOPWA staff.
It was personal later, too. Let me explain. For the past, few years I have been working with and living in Detroit. You know the city suffered through some hard times. Hundreds of thousands of people fled the city. As cities go, it had fallen hard, quickly. Detroit was devastated. Now, thanks to the grit, courage, and commitment of the citizens, and through creative public/private partnerships, it is coming back. People are coming back. The city is living and thriving. There is a feeling of renewal...resurrection...regeneration. I sense a growing confidence, pride, and strength. HOPWA is like Detroit. Its helps people in difficult circumstances. There is a growing confidence. Participants see the medical landscape is shifting, being redesigned. There is hope.
And our national commitment remains constant. As some programs are changing in challenging, creative times, the nation is rock solid behind HOPWA. The new budget retains a steady level of funding for HOPWA compared to last year.
I also want to mention that today, June 27th, is National HIV Testing Day. June 27 is recognized as National Testing Day by all the agencies across our government. The CDC remind us that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. I hope we can keep this in mind as we talk about the HOPWA program, and share this important testing message with our friends and families.
Years ago, a scholar named William McNeill wrote a book called "Plagues and People." It was how unexpected plagues influenced history. At the end of that great book he made this point: During a plague a culture reveals itself. How we treat those with a disease reflects the kind of people we are .... who we are ... what we are. He said that disease can make us callous, unfeeling, and cruel, or it can reveal our humanity, generosity, and compassion. I like to think that HOPWA shows the human, gentler, caring side of our society. It shows that people with HIV are not forgotten or marginalized. Rather, our nation is aware, concerned, and caring. We stand together and that has been true for 25 years. Because this is who we are...what we believe ... a mirror of America, a reflection of ourselves, and our solidarity and community.