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Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Representing the 43rd District of California

Minority AIDS Initiative

August 5, 2009
Floor Statement
Rep. Maxine Waters [D-CA]: Madam Speaker, the first annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was organized on February 23, 2001, with the message: Get educated, get involved, get tested. The National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day dates back to 1999 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention funded five national nonprofit organizations known then as the Community Capacity-Building Coalition, which are Concerned Black Men, Incorporated, of Philadelphia; Health Watch Information and Promotion Services, Jackson State University; Mississippi Urban Research Center; National Black Alcoholism and Addictions Council; and National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS.

On February 23, 2001, the CCBC organized the first annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The date was changed to February 7, the following year, that was in 2002, and now it is recognized on February 7 of each year.

Madam Speaker and Members, many members of the Congressional Black Caucus and many Members of Congress have joined in the struggle and the fight to find a cure to prevent HIV and AIDS. I need to congratulate all of these Members right in the CBC. I need to congratulate BARBARA LEE, and ED TOWNS, and DONNA CHRISTENSEN, and Mr. Cummings, and ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, and DIANE WATSON, and so many more for the years of work that they have put in on dealing with HIV and AIDS, and HIV and AIDS in the minority community.

That is why back in 1998 I worked to establish the Minority Aids Initiative with the support of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Clinton administration. The Minority Aids Initiative provides grants for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs that serve minority communities and enables health care providers and community-based organizations to expand their capacity to serve these communities.

The initiative received an initial appropriation of $166 million in fiscal year 1999, and was funded at slightly less than $400 million in the most recent spending cycle.

However, the AIDS virus has continued to spread in the minority communities, and more needs to be done. This year I am calling for at least $610 million in funding to expand the Minority Aids Initiative, and redouble our efforts to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic which has been especially devastating to African Americans and other communities of color.

But it is important to remember that HIV/AIDS affects us all. Over 1 million Americans are living with HIV/AIDS, and 24 to 27 percent of them do not know they are infected. That is why on Monday I introduced H.R. 822, the Routine HIV/AIDS Screening Coverage Act, a bill to require health insurance plans to cover routine HIV/AIDS tests under the same terms and conditions as other routine health screening.

Routine HIV/AIDS screening will allow thousands of African Americans and other infected individuals to find out about their infection, begin life-extending treatment and avoid spreading the virus to others. I also very soon will reintroduce the Stop AIDS in Prison Act, a bill to require routine HIV/AIDS screening of all Federal prison inmates upon entry, and prior to release from prison. The bill would also require HIV awareness education for all inmates and comprehensive treatment for those inmates who test positive.

Madam Speaker and Members, we here today come on the floor of Congress, all of us, to speak about this because it is a pandemic. It is a pandemic in the world that must be dealt with. We must lead the way here in the United States of America.

And for those of us whose communities are being overtaken by HIV and AIDS, we must stand up and be counted. We must ask for the money. We must demand the resources. We must take our heads out of the sand. We must call on all of the members of our community to accept personal responsibility. We must get our churches involved, all of our social clubs and organizations. Today we make a special appeal to them.

Click here to see a video clip of the speech.