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U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters Uses World AIDS Day to Call on World Leaders to Encourage HIV Testing and Make 2007 the “Year of the Test”

July 21, 2009
Press Release

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, made the following statement in observance of World AIDS Day:
"Some 40 million people worldwide, including more than 1 million in the United States, are infected with one of the deadliest diseases known to mankind—for which the cure still remains unknown.   That is why I am calling on leaders around the world to make 2007 the ‘Year of the Test.' Studies consistently show that whenever a person knows their HIV status, they are less likely to pass the disease on and more likely to seek out life-saving treatment.  It is time to start thinking of HIV testing as a form of prevention and make them a routine part of health screenings."

"The face of AIDS has changed tremendously over the past decade.  When the disease was first discovered, most of its victims were gay, white men.  Today, they are far more diverse.  Women now account for 27% of new AIDS cases in the United States, and girls account for half of new AIDS cases among teenagers.  As African Americans, we account for about half of new AIDS cases in the United States despite the fact that we only make up 13% of the population.  African American women represent 70% of new AIDS cases among women, and African American teenagers represent 66% of new AIDS cases among teenagers.  Over 70% of new AIDS cases are people of color, and the face of AIDS in the United States is increasingly black and female."

"Why is it so important to use World AIDS Day as an opportunity to educate the residents of Los Angeles County about the risks of HIV and encourage everyone to get tested?  Because there are more than 9.7 million people in Los Angeles County, and 21,000 of them are living with HIV.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, 25 percent of the Americans living with HIV do not know they have the disease.  So, in LA County, there are potentially more than 5,200 HIV positive people who have not been tested and are unaware of their status." 

"Los Angeles is one of the places were AIDS first appeared in the early 1980's, and since then, it has been seriously and disproportionately impacted by this tragic disease. The AIDS Semi-Annual Surveillance Summary conducted between January and June 2006 by the LA County Department of Public Health indicates the following:
• Since the beginning of the epidemic, there have been a total of 51,011 reported AIDS cases in Los Angeles County.  Almost 30,000 have died, and a total of 21,045 are still living with full-blown AIDS.
• A total of 46% of the AIDS cases in LA County since the beginning of the epidemic have been White, 20% have been African American, and 31% have been Hispanic.
• Of the adult and adolescent AIDS cases diagnosed in 2005, 25% were White, 25% were African American, and 46% were Hispanic.  The rest were unknown."

"These data are dramatic and convey an urgent message that our lifestyles and behaviors must change immediately in order to protect our population from dwindling and to protect our families from suffering.  These numbers are the reason we must all work together to make sure that every person gets tested for HIV.  The studies are very clear, when people get tested and know their HIV status, they are less likely to spread the disease, more likely to protect themselves from contracting the disease, and more likely to seek life-saving treatments if they find out they are HIV positive."

"Most of the funding for HIV/AIDS outreach, treatment and prevention programs developed by Congress and administered by agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services were designed when the face of AIDS was predominantly white and gay.  However, very little of those funds went toward researching the spread of HIV in minority communities or developing culturally relevant prevention programs."

"We must constantly reevaluate HIV/AIDS programs to ensure that the funding is being efficiently distributed and used as effectively as possible.  Methods have been and will continue to be developed to help treat those already infected with HIV and to prevent others from becoming infected, but we must never lose sight of finding a cure.  And, once again, I implore the world's leaders to make 2007 the ‘Year of the Test'."