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MAY 5, 2009 New York, NY – The Latino Commission on AIDS and the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS applaud Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35) for re-introducing the Routine HIV Screening Coverage Act (H.R. 822 in the 110th Congress). This bill would require health insurance plans to cover routine HIV tests under the same terms and conditions as other routine health screenings and would greatly expand communities of colors access to HIV testing.

“Standard health insurance plans now cover HIV tests only when there are clinical indications of infection or when there are known risk factors present, but they should cover HIV tests as routine procedures,” said Congresswoman Waters. “Routine HIV screening is a key to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. It will encourage more people to get tested and raise awareness about the continuing risk of the disease. It will also allow thousands of Americans who are living with HIV/AIDS but do not know it to find out about their infection, begin life-extending treatment, and avoid spreading the virus to others.”

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that there were 56,300 new HIV infections in the United States in 2006. This figure is approximately 40% higher than the CDC’s previous estimate of 40,000 new infections per year. Twenty-one percent of the people who are living with HIV/AIDS in the United States do not know they are infected.  According to the CDC, among those living with HIV, African Americans and Latinos were less likely to be diagnosed compared to their White counterparts (22.2% of blacks and 21.6% of Hispanics living with HIV were undiagnosed, vs. 18.8% of Whites). Because of the substantially greater burden of HIV infection among African Americans, the rate of undiagnosed HIV infection among blacks was nine times that among whites (380.3 per 100,000 population vs. 42.2) and the rate for Hispanics (126.4 per 100,000 population) was nearly three times that among whites. Overall, blacks accounted for nearly half (48.6 percent) of HIV-positive persons unaware of their status -- or an estimated 113,100 individuals living with undiagnosed infection and Hispanics accounted for 18.0 percent (41,900) of individuals living with undiagnosed infection.[1] This analysis adds to an already substantial body of data showing the tremendous toll that HIV takes on African American and Latino communities.

Among those who are HIV positive, CDC data indicate that more than one in four Latinos (43%) were tested for HIV late in their illness - that is, diagnosed with AIDS within one year of testing positive as were 40% of Blacks and 37% of whites.[2] In many cases these individuals don't receive an HIV test until after they are ill with an AIDS-defining condition and their medical options are greatly reduced.


“This bill signals a change in the course of HIV prevention. The federal government is finally addressing HIV testing legislation and supporting H.R. 822 is one of the most significant and relevant actions that our elected officials can take to dramatically impact a decrease in HIV incidence, “stated Dennis De Leon, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS, “we commend Congresswoman Waters for her continued courage in the fight against HIV/AIDS and for focusing attention on routine HIV testing.”


C. Virginia Fields, President of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, stated “HIV/AIDS associated-stigma already cripples prevention and care efforts especially within ethnic/racial minority populations. HIV testing should become a routine part of health care. Any barriers that further stigmatize HIV testing and prevent our communities from accessing life-saving measures should be removed.”

Government has an unprecedented opportunity to suppress the spread of this disease through support of a national, coordinated and vigorous scale-up of routine HIV testing. It is important that we have legislation that removes regulatory barriers to routine HIV testing. The lives of African Americans, Latinos and other communities most heavily impacted by this disease depend on it.


The Latino Commission on AIDS and the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS encourage Members of Congress to support this critical legislation.  Passage of this bill will undoubtedly save thousands of lives.


About the Latino Commission on AIDS: The Latino Commission on AIDS is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1990 dedicated to fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS in Latino/Hispanic communities. The Commission is the leading national Latino AIDS organization and works in more than 40 States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. For more information visit


About the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS: The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS was founded in 1987, is the oldest and largest not-for-profit organization of its kind in the United States. NBLCA’s mission is to educate, organize, and empower Black leadership and the media to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS in their local communities.  For more information visit


Oscar Raúl López
Director of Health Policy

Latino Commission on AIDS

Direct Line: (646) 375-4415


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