U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters Delivers Keynote at First High-Level Summit Devoted to Making HIV Tests a Routine Part of Medical Exams
U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (CA-35), Co-Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus' HIV/AIDS Task Force and a Senior Member of the House Judiciary Committee, delivered the keynote address tonight at the first high-level summit focused on implementing the new guidelines for routine HIV screening in health care settings published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this year in September. The AIDS summit was organized to explore the logistical, political, economic, social and ethical issues involved in carrying out the CDC's guidelines and was attended by the nation's preeminent policy makers and leading researchers in the field of HIV/AIDS.
"All of the HIV/AIDS research is clear. Testing is a critical element to both stopping the spread of this disease and initiating the early intervention necessary to prolong the lives of individuals who test positive for the HIV virus," said Rep. Waters. "I am in complete agreement with the CDC's new guidelines because the public, and especially African Americans, who are disproportionately infected by and dying from this disease must start thinking of testing as a form of prevention and not just another medical procedure."
In her speech, Rep. Waters discussed the importance of HIV testing and the fact that people who are tested and know their HIV status are less likely to contract or infect others with the disease. She gave an overview of the two HIV-related bills she recently introduced in Congress. The first, H.R. 6038, would make HIV testing for federal inmates a routine practice and the other, H.R. 6309, would instruct health insurance companies to cover routine HIV screenings as recommended by the CDC and prohibit the companies from denying coverage to individuals who are found to be HIV positive.
Rep. Waters added, "Increasingly the face of HIV/AIDS in the United States is Black. And a reason that African-Americans account for 55 percent of AIDS-related deaths in the U.S. is that when we are eventually tested, the disease has progressed to the point that within 18 months the diagnosis becomes AIDS and many of the new drugs become ineffective. As African-Americans, we must take personal responsibility for saving our own lives, and the place to start is for each of us to learn our HIV status by getting tested for HIV."
Click here for a copy of the speech.