WASHINGTON – In commemoration of World AIDS Day, Congresswoman Barbara Lee called for a renewed focused and commitment across the globe to fighting HIV/AIDS.
“As we recognize World AIDS Day, we must all recommit ourselves – as a global community - to stamping out HIV/AIDS from the face of the earth.”
“Last week we received some encouraging news about the state of the global AIDS pandemic and a potential new tool we can use to combat it. The release of the 2010 Global Report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS highlights the progress we have achieved over the last decade in fighting this disease. With more people on treatment, fewer new infections and fewer deaths in 2009, the trend lines around the world are encouraging. The American people should take pride in the global impact that their tax dollars, combined with the leadership of the United States, are having on the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.
"However we cannot dismiss the fact that despite these signs of progress another 1.8 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses last year, while 2.6 million people became newly infected - leading to an increase in the number of people living with HIV to approximately 33.3 million. Now is not the time for us to claim success and walk away from this fight. We must instead accelerate our efforts to combat HIV/AIDS around the world and build on the progress we have made by increasing funding for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
"I also welcome the results of a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health indicating that a widely available, two drug combination pill - taken once a day - can substantially reduce the risk of HIV transmission among men who have sex with men.
“While additional research is necessary to validate the study's findings, particularly for use within other high risk groups, it is clear that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP) has the potential to be a very important new tool as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention package. We must now move forward to begin planning on how to best integrate and rollout PreP in order to fully utilize this promising intervention within our domestic and global AIDS programs.
"As we consider the significance of these new developments, we must be mindful that how we respond to this news today will define the course of the global pandemic for years to come. The release of the first ever National AIDS Strategy by President Obama earlier this year, combined with the return of the International AIDS Conference to the United States in 2012, after a 21 year boycott, will shine an international spotlight on our country's global response to this disease over the next two years. With over 4,157 people across nine states currently on waiting lists for lifesaving AIDS treatment in the United States and nearly 10 million HIV positive people around the world still in need of treatment - we must not let our commitment to fighting this pandemic falter or our resolve fail.
"In the spirit of World AIDS Day and this year's theme of Universal Access and Human Rights, I call on my colleagues to take advantage of this moment and come together in a bipartisan manner with the administration to find the will and the funding necessary to stop this disease.”
Congresswoman Lee has been a leader in the fight against the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. She co-authored legislation signed into law creating the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria in 2000, establishing the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003, assisting orphans and vulnerable children affected by AIDS in 2005, and reauthorizing PEPFAR in 2008 . The recent PEPFAR reauthorization also included language originally authored by Congresswoman Lee to remove the HIV travel and immigration ban and led to the formal elimination of the ban by President Obama last year, clearing the way for the International AIDS Conference to finally return to the United States in 2012. Earlier this year she was appointed to the United Nation's Global Commission on HIV and the Law, which will examine the legal barriers to carrying out effective national AIDS responses and provide human rights-based recommendations to overcome these challenges. She is the only member of the Commission from the United States.
She was instrumental in the reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act that will continue to allow for lifesaving AIDS treatment to reach people in need, along with supporting ongoing community outreach programs and services, and training for clinicians. Additionally, she helped lead the charge to rollback the federal ban on funding for needle exchange programs to ensure that these proven initiatives can receive the much needed resources they need to bring drug users into care and addiction recovery programs.