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Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Representing the 43rd District of California

Supporting the Goals and Ideals of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

August 5, 2009
Floor Statement
Rep. Maxine Waters [D-CA]: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentleman from New York for bringing this resolution before this House. His work is very important on this issue.

And I rise in support of H. Con. Res. 35, supporting the goals and ideals of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

The first annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was organized on February 23, 2001, with the message "Get Educated, Get Involved, Get Tested."

Unfortunately, African Americans have been gravely impacted by the AIDS epidemic. Unfortunately, African Americans account for half of the new AIDS cases, although we are only 13 percent of the population. Worse yet is the fact that African American women represent 67 percent of new AIDS cases among women, and black teenagers represent 66 percent of new AIDS cases among teenagers.

That is why back in 1998 I established the Minority AIDS Initiative, with the support of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Clinton administration. At that time we received $166 million in funding the new initiative, and this initiative for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs serving African American and other minority communities was very helpful in helping to build capacity in these communities to deal with the problem.

However, it is not enough. Last year I asked for $610 million, and I am renewing my call with the support of the Congressional Black Caucus for that amount. But the message ``Get Educated, Get Involved, Get Tested'' is an important message for all Americans. 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 today I am reintroducing the Routine HIV/AIDS Screening Coverage Act. This bill requires health insurance plans to cover routine HIV/AIDS tests under the same terms and conditions as other routine health screenings.

I also plan to reintroduce the Stop AIDS in Prison Act, a bill to require routine HIV/AIDS screening of all Federal prison inmates upon entering prison and again prior to release from prison, as well as comprehensive treatment for those who test positive. 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 urge my colleagues to support National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and I urge all Americans to educate themselves, act responsibly, get involved, and get tested for HIV/AIDS.

I thank Representative Towns for the attention that he has given to this issue.

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