Rep. Barbara Lee is one of three co-chairs of a new Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus.
Thirty years after the first discovery of AIDS in the United States, it remains a humanitarian crisis: An estimated 33.4 million people worldwide live with HIV/AIDS and more than 25 million people have died since 1981.
The caucus’ aim is to examine methods by which the nation can maintain global leadership in the response to the epidemic here and around the world, and to “galvanize new leadership” in preparation for the International AIDS Conference to be held in Washington, D.C. next July.
“In reflecting on the past three decades, I am amazed by how much has changed, especially in light of the remarkable accomplishments in recent years,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a news release.
“We declared a state of emergency in Alameda County in my district, set up a trust fund at the World Bank for the AIDS Marshall Plan for Africa, helped build the framework for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, worked to create PEPFAR, and managed to get the travel ban repealed in order to secure the International AIDS Conference on U.S. soil,” she said. “With the commitment of so many dedicated to eradicate AIDS, we are positioned to recommit ourselves to achieving universal access and standing up to demand human rights for all.”
The other two co-chairs of the caucus, which has 59 members, are Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. Franks called HIV “a monstrous international epidemic and a destructive force on humanity.”
“Today, millions of children in the developing world are born to mothers living with HIV, but with the right investments, we can witness the virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission,” he said. “My two top priorities as co-chair of the HIV/AIDS Caucus are to better enable faith-based organizations to implement life-saving medical services and to make significant strides so no child is born with HIV after 2015, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to bring attention to this important humanitarian issue.”
Michel Sidibé, Executive Director at UNAIDS, said the United States’ leadership and generosity have “made a profound and positive difference” in the epidemic, “and I am counting on the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus to continue to play a critical role in shaping the future of the AIDS response.”
Ronald Johnson, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at AIDS United, said the caucus’ formation “signals a determination to move forward to end the epidemic domestically and globally.”
“Release and implementation of the U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy, progress achieved through PEPFAR and the Global Fund, and recent HIV research advances show that increasingly we have the knowledge, skills, and tools to reduce new infections, increase access to care, and eliminate disparities and inequities,” Johnson said. “This is a unique moment of opportunity. This is not the time for U.S. leadership to weaken; indeed it must grow and strengthen.”