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U.S. Representative Maxine Waters Introduces Legislation to Require Mandatory Testing for Prisoners to Stop the Deadly Spread of HIV/AIDS

July 21, 2009
Press Release

U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (CA-35) unveiled legislation today that will—among other things—require mandatory testing for inmates upon entering a  federal prison facility and, again, upon their release.  Rep. Waters introduced, H.R. 6038, the Stop AIDS in Prison Act of 2006, to aggressively pursue and implement new policies that will curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community—a trend that has been largely ignored by a majority of U.S. policy makers, elected officials, and civil rights leaders. 

"Negative attitudes toward and the stigma associated with mandatory testing are obsolete and pose a potentially lethal health risk, specifically to African Americans," said Rep. Waters.  "The United States must start looking at mandatory testing in the context of prevention.  We cannot allow the fear and ignorance rooted in a 25-year-old mindset to slow aggressive efforts to halt the progress of this disease, especially when African-American women make up nearly 70 percent of all new AIDS cases among women.  Although African Americans make up only 12 percent of the U.S. population, we account for 50 percent of the new HIV/AIDS cases." 

Rep. Waters added, "I want this legislation to grab people's attention and force them to get serious about the fact that HIV/AIDS is disproportionately killing African Americans. It is killing our women, our men, destroying families, and I am sick and tired of weak responses to this medical emergency both nationally and in the African-American community.  It is morally reprehensible that leaders in our community know about this issue and remain predominantly silent." 

The Stop AIDS in Prison Act of 2006 is another action taken by Rep. Waters who has been involved in the struggle to eradicate HIV/AIDS for more than 20 years.  In addition to requiring mandatory HIV/AIDS testing for inmates entering federal prisons and again upon release, this legislation is designed to: 

• Stop the spread of HIV/AIDS among inmates.
• Protect prison guards and other personnel from HIV/AIDS infection.
• Provide comprehensive, timely medical treatment to inmates who are living with HIV/AIDS.
• Promote HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention among inmates.
• Encourage inmates to take personal responsibility for their health, get tested for HIV/AIDS and reward behavior that reduces the risks of HIV/AIDS transmission.
• Significantly reduce the rate of inmates transmitting HIV/AIDS to their spouses, partners, or other people in the community following their release from prison.

In addition to legislation, Rep. Waters will be conducting extensive public outreach to encourage all Americans to do everything possible to take personal responsibility for their own lives. 

"Enough is enough.  It is time to launch a massive, coordinated nation-wide mobilization to roll back both the infection and mortality rates for HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and to stop its devastating impact on the African-American community.  I am taking this fight to the streets, and I am going to spread the message that every American has to stop thinking, ‘this can't happen to me.'   Instead, we all have to realize that every time someone has unprotected sex it could kill them." 

In 1998, as Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Rep. Waters worked with community groups, the Clinton White House, and other CBC members to create the Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI), which provides grants to community-based organizations and other health care providers for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs serving African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American and Native-American communities.  Over the last eight years Rep. Waters has worked to successfully secure more than $2.8 billion for the program, and this year she has asked Congress to increase funding for the MAI by 53% over the 2006 level to $610 million.  Rep. Waters is currently the Chair of the CBC's Domestic AIDS Task Force and has used her position to educate the public about HIV/AIDS prevention and advocated public policy to eliminate the spread of the disease.