WASHINGTON – Congressional and Latino community leaders called for enhanced efforts to combat the growing HIV epidemic in their communities and adequate resources to implement the Administration’s new HIV/AIDS Strategy during a Capitol Hill congressional briefing.
The calls came in response to the recent release of the White House HIV/AIDS Strategy, which addresses the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic among communities of color nationwide and in Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia by identifying the most heavily impacted jurisdictions with rising incidences of HIV/AIDS. Hispanic leaders also expressed their fears that, due to ongoing financial crises in jurisdictions with the highest number of Latino HIV and AIDS cases, HIV prevention and treatment programs were suffering devastating cuts.
“Recognizing that our communities have faced persistent barriers to accessing HIV services, I commend the President for unveiling the HIV/AIDS strategy, with a goal to reduce the number of new cases by 25 percent in the next 5 years,” said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-34th/CA), who is chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Health Care Task Force. “However, it is critical that we stay vigilant to ensure the promises of health care reform and the national HIV/AIDS strategy do in fact provide comprehensive, measurable improvements in access, prevention, and HIV/AIDS outcomes in our Latino communities.”
Soraya Galeas, the Metropolitan Latino AIDS Coalition stated that, "With a disproportionate share of HIV/AIDS cases in Latino communities and Puerto Rico, we must increase our community mobilization to save lives. HIV is preventable."
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-18th/FL) announced that, “We need to come together to reaffirm our commitment to increase HIV/AIDS awareness in all Hispanic communities in both Spanish and English. We cannot miss anybody; HIV does not discriminate.”
The Capitol Hill congressional briefing officially kicked off the National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) events, which are organized annually on October 15th in more than 300 cities and 45 states across the country and territories. NLAAD was established in 2003 to act as a community mobilization catalyst to prevent the spread of HIV infection in Latino communities, to promote HIV testing opportunities, to connect people to care and to activities that raise AIDS awareness and other health conditions impacting Hispanics in national, state and local communities.
“Latinos living with HIV/AIDS, their families, loved ones and friends are uniting around the country with community based organizations, health departments, elected officials, religious leaders and civic leaders to organize the upcoming National Latino AIDS Awareness Day,” said Melissa Faith Ramirez, Director of National Latino AIDS Awareness Day.
“Community partners are renewing their commitment to HIV testing, prevention and care for all Latinos, regardless of immigration status or language ability. I can only hope that Congress will appropriate federal funding for the implementation of the new HIV/AIDS strategy for the most impacted communities, including the southern states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, and critical programs such as the AIDS Drugs Assistance Program (ADAP) that has been facing severe cuts throughout the nation” stated Guillermo Chacon, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS.
The Latino Commission on AIDS, the Metropolitan Latino AIDS Coalition (MLAC), the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC),the Hispanic Federation, Salud Latina/Latino Health and the National Latino AIDS Action Network (NLAAN) are working together to educate Congress about the impact of HIV/AIDS among Hispanics.
National Latino AIDS Awareness Day was created in 2003 in response to the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on Hispanic/Latino Communities across the US and territories. October 15th, marks the eighth annual commemoration of NLAAD, which is held each year in commemoration of the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month. NLAAD represents a call to action for Hispanics/Latinos to protect their lives and the lives of those they love by getting tested and learning about HIV.