September 16, 2011

Lee, McDermott and Franks Launch Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus

Kristal DeKleer (202) 225-1882

Washington, D.C.Administration officials, experts and advocates joined Representatives Barbara Lee, Jim McDermott and Trent Franks, co-chairs of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, to launch the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus.  Thirty years after the first discovery of AIDS in the U.S., it remains one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time.  An estimated 33.4 million people worldwide live with HIV/AIDS and more than 25 million people have died since 1981. 

"The United States' global leadership and the generosity of the American people have made a profound and positive difference in the AIDS epidemic,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director at UNAIDS.  “This sustained commitment, across political administrations for more than a decade, has saved millions of lives. And I am counting on the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus to continue to play a critical role in shaping the future of the AIDS response."

“The story of PEPFAR has demonstrated the remarkable good will and generosity of the American people in addressing our global HIV/AIDS crisis,” said Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. Congress’ ongoing bipartisan support for PEPFAR, and President Obama’s continuing stewardship of a landmark program launched by President George W. Bush, have shown the world that PEPFAR is a vital, effective element of our foreign policy, saving millions of lives across the globe. With continued support from Congress, the path toward an HIV-free generation is becoming clear.” 

“The United States continues to face a very serious domestic HIV epidemic and President Obama has made it a priority by releasing the Nation's first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States. Congressional leadership on domestic and global HIV/AIDS has been critical and we look forward to continuing to work with Congress on this important effort,” said Jeffrey S. Crowley, White House Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy.

 “American leadership in the global fight against HIV/AIDS began a decade ago when Republican and Democratic leaders stood together and refused to allow a deadly disease to claim a generation of African teachers, nurses, doctors, parents and children,” said Michael Gerson, ONE senior advisor and Washington Post columnist. “The HIV/AIDS caucus announced today will remind Congress of a great bipartisan achievement – and of a continuing responsibility to save lives.”

“Formation of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus signals a determination to move forward to end the epidemic domestically and globally,” commented Ronald Johnson, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at AIDS United.  “Release and implementation of the U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy, progress achieved through PEPFAR and the Global Fund, and recent HIV research advances show that increasingly we have the knowledge, skills, and tools to reduce new infections, increase access to care, and eliminate disparities and inequities.  This is a unique moment of opportunity.  This is not the time for U.S. leadership to weaken; indeed it must grow and strengthen.” 

"The US response to global AIDS is an example of how targeted US foreign assistance saves lives and is very cost-effective, even more so as it is leveraging significant donations from private corporations, individual Americans, and other nations,” said Kent Hill, World Vision's Senior Vice President for International Programs. “Working together, we can make a big difference."

"In reflecting on the past three decades, I am amazed by how much has changed, especially in light of the remarkable accomplishments in recent years," said Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Co-Chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus.  "We declared a state of emergency in Alameda County in my district, set up a trust fund at the World Bank for the AIDS Marshall Plan for Africa, helped build the framework for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, worked to create PEPFAR, and managed to get the travel ban repealed in order to secure the International AIDS Conference on U.S. soil.  Today, with remarkable medical advances in AIDS research, we recommit ourselves to achieving universal access and standing up to demand human rights for all."

"HIV is a monstrous international epidemic and a destructive force on humanity,” said Congressman Trent Franks, Co-Chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus. “Today, millions of children in the developing world are born to mothers living with HIV, but with the right investments, we can witness the virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission. My two top priorities as co-chair of the HIV/AIDS Caucus are to better enable faith-based organizations to implement life-saving medical services and to make significant strides so no child is born with HIV after 2015, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to bring attention to this important humanitarian issue."

“We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that we have HIV/AIDS under control, because we don’t,” said Congressman Jim McDermott, Co-Chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus. “Despite the enormous progress we have made over 30 years, we still have no vaccine, and treatment remains out of reach for so many. We have to keep our eye on the ball and continue pushing forward: prevention, treatment, and finding a vaccine must remain our focus.”

The bipartisan Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus was created to examine methods by which the United States can maintain global leadership in the response to the epidemic in the U.S. and around the world. The Caucus will also provide opportunities to galvanize new leadership in preparation for the International AIDS Conference to be held in Washington, D.C. in July 2012.  The Caucus currently has 59 Members.