Today Rep. John Lewis took note of advances in the fight against HIV/AIDS on World AIDS Day. Recently Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a new five-point “blueprint “outlining the revamped U.S. strategy in the struggle against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The State Department noted that the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has helped 5.1 million people gain antiretroviral treatment for the disease; offered15 million people, including 4.5 million orphans, care and support; and counseling to more than 11 million pregnant mothers.
The new focus on HIV/AIDS intervention and the State Department’s five-point plan prompted Lewis to lend his voice to the day of remembrance.
“I was very glad to hear about the good work the federal government has done to help nations meet the oppressive demand of the HIV/AIDS pandemic”, said Lewis. “Just a decade ago, a diagnosis of AIDS was a death sentence. Today because the US government united its efforts with those of nations around the world, we are beginning to make some progress. And if we continue working together as a world community and using the advances in scientific research effectively, maybe one day this disease will become as rare as small pox is today.
“This progress, however, does not relieve us of any responsibility. In fact, it suggests that research, education and action are powerful tools that we must persistently and consistently employ until this disease is eradicated forever.”
In spite of, or perhaps due to, the recent advances in treatment African Americans have been affected disproportionately by HIV infection. Despite representing a smaller proportion (13.6%) of the U.S. population, African Americans accounted for half of the HIV diagnoses in adolescents and adults in 37 states from 2005–2008.
“HIV/AIDS is still a terrible threat here in the United States,” Lewis continued. “The Southern region of this country is still the place where most new cases are emerging. People need to get tested, know their status, and, if necessary, determine to follow a treatment plan faithfully. Getting tested early works to your benefit. Medical advances have turned this into a chronic illness rather than a fatal diagnosis. In fact, physicians have discovered that treatment of patients before they get sick is a preventive measure that pushes back against the worst manifestations of the disease.
“Get tested. Know your status. It could save your life,” Lewis said.
[Photos of Rep. Lewis getting tested for HIV, provided by the office of John Lewis ]