Congresswoman Lee Calls for Continued Action in Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Press Release      
For Immediate Release
November 28, 2008  

Contact:  Ricci Graham     
(510) 763-0370

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) – who on Monday will receive the “Hero in the Struggle” Award by the Black AIDS Institute as part of the organization’s annual awards ceremony in New York City – issued the following statement in recognition of the 20th Anniversary of Worlds AIDS Day:

“Today on the 20th Anniversary of World AIDS Day, we pause to remember the more than 25 million individuals who have lost their lives to this devastating global pandemic, and we recommit ourselves to upholding their memory by renewing our commitment to “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.”

“We have made great strides over the last 20 ears in combating HIV/AIDS at home and abroad – passing the Ryan White CARE Act, creating the Minority AIDS Initiative, and establishing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief—but we still have much to do.

“At home, the release of two new disturbing reports in August, one by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the other from the Black AIDS Institute have both confirmed what many of us have known all along. Quite simply that HIV/AIDS is continuing to devastate the African American community and men who have sex with men—and that young gay black men are especially at risk.

“In my district in Alameda County, over 6,800 cases of AIDS have been diagnosed since 1980, and nearly 4,000 people have died.  Of those numbers, African Americans represent well over 40 percent of the cumulative AIDS cases and AIDS deaths in the county, while Latinos represent around 10 percent of all AIDS cases and about 9 percent of all deaths.

“In 1998, we declared a State of Emergency in Alameda County because of the AIDS crisis in the African-American community.  Although this led to the creation of a communitywide African American AIDS taskforce, a shortage of funding has forced many organizations in my district to consolidate or scale back their programs despite the ongoing need in the community.

The sad fact is that for 27 years now, we have failed to develop a single National AIDS Strategy to coordinate and fund our response to HIV/AIDS in America. That is why earlier this year I joined Senator Clinton in introducing a resolution in Congress (H. Con. Res. 413) calling for a National AIDS Strategy.  I am pleased that President-Elect Obama has endorsed the idea, and I look forward to working with him and my colleagues in Congress to create and fund it.

“But we’ve also got to take some fundamental steps to improve how we carry out HIV prevention by:

1.    Removing the federal funding ban for needle exchange programs
2.    Passing my bill HR 1653 the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) act to teach comprehensive sex education in our schools, and
3.    Addressing the spread of sexually transmitted infections in our prison system by passing my bill, HR 178 the JUSTICE Act, and Rep. Maxine Waters’ bill, HR 1943 the Stop AIDS in Prisons Act.

As the incoming Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, I will continue to work with our new President and members of the CBC, including Rep. Maxine Waters and Rep. Donna Christensen, to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States, and especially within the African American community.

“As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will also be working with my colleagues to ramp up the federal commitment to stopping the spread of this devastating disease. Most immediately, we must double the CDC’s HIV prevention budget to at least $1.3 billion next year and provide at least $610 million for the Minority AIDS Initiative.

“On the global front, we achieved some successes this year in reauthorizing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief at a cost of $48 billion, removing the arbitrary requirement that 33 percent of our prevention dollars be spent on abstinence only programs, and most notably repealing the discriminatory ban on travel and immigration for people with HIV/AIDS wishing to enter the United States.

“Now we have a responsibility to ensure that the mandates of this new law are fully funded and implemented, including most immediately by increasing our support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

“With a new Obama Administration, we can also take some immediate steps to strengthen our global AIDS programs by promptly lifting the Global Gag rule, which has defunded reproductive health and family planning programs throughout the world to the detriment of women and girls everywhere.  We can then take steps to ensure that our global HIV/AIDS programs are coordinated and integrated with our family planning and reproductive health programs, so that we can multiply the impact of U.S. taxpayer dollars in the fight against this dreaded disease.

“Although we face many challenges next year, I know that working together we can take these fundamental steps to help stamp HIV/AIDS from the face of the earth.”

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