Congresswoman Waters Recognizes World AIDS 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 education, screening, research, treatment, and funding, released the following statement today in recognition of World AIDS Day:
"World AIDS Day is a time to remember the people who have been tragically lost to the disease – over 25 million worldwide since it was first identified almost 30 years ago. But it is also a time to recognize that new infection rates are decreasing while those living with HIV or AIDS – some 33 million people around the world – are living longer, productive lives.
I am heartened by some of the news we are hearing from the medical and research communities: a vaginal gel for women decreased the spread of infection by 40 percent in one study; in another study, a pill cocktail for men who engage in sex with other men saw a 44 percent decrease in the spread of the infection – and an even higher 73 percent for men who took the prescribed dosage.
Despite our progress and these promising new developments, we know that we have a long way to go both at home and abroad. More than 62,000 people are living with HIV or AIDS in Los Angeles County, 39% of whom are Latino Americans and 22% of whom are African Americans. The HIV/AIDS rate here in our nation's capital rivals that of some African countries, where the disease is most prevalent. Globally, almost 1,000 children a day contract HIV from their mothers during birth; and almost 17 million children around the world are AIDS orphans.
I am very encouraged by the resolve with which our nation has tackled the disease head on: the President has asked for a record amount of funding for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in FY 2011, and the National AIDS Strategy adopted by the Obama Administration earlier this year is something I have long called for: a comprehensive strategy to deal with this problem at home. As I said upon its release, it must be fully funded to implement its lofty goals. I also look forward to our country hosting the International AIDS Conference in 2012 – made possible by the 2009 lifting of an ill-advised, twenty-year-old policy that prevented people who were HIV positive from traveling to the United States.
I pledge to continue my efforts in Congress to help reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, especially among communities of color. In the waning days of the 111th Congress, I again call on the Senate Judiciary Committee to immediately pass my legislation which would require the Bureau of Prisons to develop a comprehensive policy to provide HIV testing, treatment and prevention for inmates in federal prisons, and send it to the full Senate for a vote. HR 1429, the Stop AIDS in Prison Act, has already passed the House of Representatives.
While we continue to focus on prevention, we also must make sure those who are already infected are able to access life-prolonging treatment. I am deeply concerned about the growing numbers of infected Americans who are on waiting lists for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), and I call on my colleagues in Congress to increase funding for this life-saving program. Prevention and treatment go hand-in-hand."
Congresswoman Waters and 29 of her colleagues wrote to Senate leaders asking for HR 1429 to pass the Committee and head to the floor for a full vote. In addition to HR 1429, Congresswoman Waters has also introduced the Routine HIV Screening Coverage Act (H.R. 2137) to require health insurance companies to cover routine HIV tests, and urged the Appropriations Committee to increase funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative, which was originally developed by the Congresswoman over ten years ago when she served as Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. After initially receiving $156 million in funding, today the Initiative is funded with over $400 million. For FY 2011, Congresswoman Waters and 56 of her colleagues requested $610 million in funding.