Congresswoman Waters Recognizes National HIV Testing Day
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), a Congressional leader in the fight to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in the United States and around the world through increased research, prevention, testing, and treatment, released the following statement today in recognition of National HIV Testing Day:
"Monday is National HIV Testing Day. It's a day to acknowledge the importance of HIV testing. But it is also a day to recognize the progress that has been made to improve awareness about HIV/AIDS and expand access to testing and treatment.
"Prudent federal policies and programs have improved our nation's ability to prevent, diagnose and treat HIV/AIDS among all Americans affected by the disease. The Minority AIDS Initiative, which I developed in 1998 when I was chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has strengthened the capacity of racial and ethnic minority communities to respond to the epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to promote awareness and prevention and encourage HIV testing to identify those who are infected. Advances in research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), together with treatment programs such as the Ryan White program and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), have allowed people living with HIV/AIDS to live longer and more productive lives.
"The passage of the Affordable Care Act has begun the process of reforming our nation's health system so that all Americans will have access to the health care they need. This law is especially important for people living with HIV/AIDS, many of whom have been denied health insurance coverage because their infection is a pre-existing condition.
"But there is still much work to do. More than one million people in the United States are living with HIV/AIDS, and one out of five of them does not know it. That is why everyone should get tested for HIV. Only by getting tested can people living with HIV find out about their infection, begin life-extending treatment, and take action to avoid spreading the virus to others.
"Of course, HIV testing is not enough. We must also make sure that those who test positive can get the treatment they need.
"I am deeply concerned that the progress we have made against this devastating disease is in danger of being reversed. There are growing numbers of infected Americans who are on waiting lists for ADAP because Congress has not provided sufficient funding for this life-saving program. Congress is considering drastic cuts in funding for critical public health programs like Medicare, Medicaid, NIH research, CDC prevention and testing programs, Ryan White and ADAP. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has made repeated efforts to repeal, defund, and dismantle the Affordable Care Act and allow health insurance companies to continue to deny coverage to Americans living with HIV/AIDS.
"I call upon all Americans to take responsibility for their health and get tested for HIV, and I call upon my colleagues in Congress to maintain funding for HIV/AIDS research, prevention, testing and treatment and support full implementation of the Affordable Care Act so that people living with HIV/AIDS can continue to be productive members of our society."
- Congresswoman Waters spearheaded the establishment of the Minority AIDS Initiative in 1998 when she served as Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. The initiative initially received $156 million in funding, and has received approximately $400 million per year since fiscal year 2003. In a letter dated May 20, 2011, Congresswoman Waters and 55 of her colleagues requested $610 million for this program in fiscal year 2012.
- During the 111th Congress, Congresswoman Waters introduced the Stop AIDS in Prison Act (H.R. 1429), a bipartisan bill to require the Federal Bureau of Prisons to develop a comprehensive policy to provide HIV testing, treatment and prevention for inmates in federal prisons. This bill was passed by the House of Representatives on March 17, 2009, but was not taken up by the Senate prior to adjournment last year. She plans to reintroduce the bill this year.
- During the 111th Congress, Congresswoman Waters also introduced the Routine HIV Screening Coverage Act (H.R. 2137) to require health insurance companies to cover routine HIV tests. She plans to reintroduce the bill this year.