Toward An AIDS-Free Generation
The following op-ed was originally published by the Huffington Post on November 30, 2012.
Today, many scientific advances have been made in the medical treatments for HIV/AIDS. There are also widespread efforts to understand the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Despite this, stigma and discrimination remain a reality for people living with HIV/AIDS. Many are still unaware about how to prevent infection. World AIDS Day (December 1) is important, as it reminds the public and governments around the world that HIV/AIDS has not been eradicated -- there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
We have a long way to go to reduce the instances of new infections across the globe from 2.4 to 2.9 million to zero, but the continued advocacy initiatives by the World Health Organization (WHO) and The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in educating the public prove invaluable to reaching this goal.
The WHO has been extremely helpful in providing factsheets with the most up-to-date information on the global state of the epidemic, as well as key interventions for HIV testing, prevention, treatment and care. The number of new infections worldwide has decreased as a result. PEPFAR has placed a special focus on improving the health of women, newborns and children living with HIV/AIDS. I stand firmly behind the PEPFAR Blueprint initiative, recently announced by Secretary Hillary Clinton, which would add to PEPFAR's success thus far in increasing HIV prevention, treatment and care to most vulnerable regions around the world.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS with nearly 50,000 new infections a year. Tragically, 20 percent of those infected with HIV/AIDS are unaware and 50 percent of those diagnosed are not receiving adequate treatment and care. It is clear that education and access to treatment is the key to eliminating this global pandemic.
As a member of Congress, I am aware of the devastating impact of the disease as it disproportionately impacts many of my black and Hispanic constituents. I am a proud author of the National Black Clergy for the Elimination of HIV/AIDS Act which would bring together government agencies, faith-based and community organizations in promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention in the black and Hispanic communities.
Getting tested and educated on the spread of HIV/AIDS can help us combat this epidemic. I urge everyone across our nation to act now and get tested today. For information on HIV/AIDS testing sites and help services, please visit http://aids.gov/. You can also show your support for people living with HIV/AIDS on World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon, the international symbol of HIV/AIDS awareness.
World AIDS Day brings people together from around the world to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. It is a demonstration of international solidarity in the face of this disease that affects 34 million worldwide. I am very optimistic about the progress in working towards an AIDS-free generation.