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Hastings on HIV Vaccine Awareness Day

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings

Submitted by Erin Moffett

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Recently (May 18, 2012) Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-Miramar) made the following statement regarding HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, which is observed annually on May 18 to educate the public about HIV prevention and recognize the efforts of volunteers, community members, health professionals, and scientists to find a vaccine for HIV:

“HIV/AIDS has affected millions of people here at home and around the world for far too long. HIV Vaccine Awareness Day serves as a reminder that we cannot bring an end to HIV/AIDS until we find a way to prevent the transmission of the virus. While a cure for AIDS does not currently exist, I am hopeful that one will be obtainable in the near future. Until then, we need to utilize and expand methods that have been proven to reduce the spread of HIV, namely prevention and treatment.

“It is critically important that we continue to support programs dedicated to preventing and treating HIV, such as the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), syringe exchange programs, and initiatives to increase public awareness and access to screening and treatment services. Furthermore, we must continue to fund HIV/AIDS research, including efforts to develop a vaccine for HIV and find a cure for AIDS. A preventive vaccine for HIV would help prevent infection in individuals who do not already have HIV.

“Of the 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, one in five individuals is unaware of their infection. Therefore, screening remains a vital tool in our comprehensive strategy to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS. That is why I introduced H.R. 1774, the Increasing Access to Voluntary Screening for HIV/AIDS and STIs Act, which establishes a broad coverage policy for voluntary HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening that focuses on at-risk and historically underrepresented communities.

“It is also encouraging to hear that last week a Federal Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel recommended the use of a certain HIV drug as an additional preventive measure for at-risk individuals who are uninfected with HIV. In addition, an FDA advisory panel backed earlier this week the use of an over-the-counter, in-home HIV test. These developments further empower individuals to protect their health and the health of others.

“HIV Vaccine Awareness Day is a way to highlight the dire need for an HIV vaccine and honor those who are working to create a generation free of HIV/AIDS. In Congress, I will continue to do my part in this endeavor and support robust funding for HIV vaccine research, as well as for ADAP, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative, and the National AIDS Strategy. Now more than ever before, I believe that we have the power to end this crisis once and for all.”

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Democratic Chairman of the Florida Delegation.

Hastings recognizes the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On May 20, 2012, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-Miramar) made the following statement in recognition of the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, which is observed annually on the third Sunday in May to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. Coordinated by the Global Network of People living with HIV, it is one of the world’s oldest and largest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV awareness in the world. The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial was started in 1983 and is led by a coalition of some 1,200 community organizations in 115 countries.

“Bringing an end to HIV/AIDS remains one of the greatest public health challenges of our time. Over the past 30 years, more than 22 million people have died due to HIV/AIDS-related illness. And currently, more than 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

“The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial seeks to honor the memories of all those who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS while raising social consciousness about the disease. Despite the advent of anti-retroviral drug regimens and other lifesaving advances in treatment and care, social and structural barriers such as poverty, stigma, and discrimination continue to obstruct access to these services for individuals and communities. In fact, it is estimated that there are about nine million people around the world living with HIV who are still in need of treatment and do not have access.

“Simply put, we cannot hope to end the HIV/AIDS crisis unless we prevent the transmission of the virus and ensure equal access to testing and treatment, evidence-based prevention, and care and support. In particular, we must address the needs of at-risk groups, including vulnerable children and young people, communities of color, and men who have sex with men (MSM), as well as related challenges such as hepatitis and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other contributing social and economic factors. Furthermore, we must continue to promote the rights of individuals living with HIV/AIDS by supporting legislation and policies that protect them against stigma and discrimination.

“As a member of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, I have led and supported various initiatives to increase access to prevention, testing, and treatment services here at home and abroad. In the 112th Congress, I introduced H.R. 1774, the Increasing Access to Voluntary Screening for HIV/AIDS and STIs Act, which establishes a broad coverage policy for voluntary HIV/AIDS and STIs screening that focuses on at-risk and historically underrepresented communities. Furthermore, I continue to support robust funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

“I am pleased to join the international HIV/AIDS community in recognizing this important event. The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial is a testament to the power of grassroots advocates and communities to effect positive policy change. Together, we can raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, combat stigma and discrimination, and give hope to new generations.”

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Democratic Chairman of the Florida Delegation.

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