Congresswoman Barbara Lee co-authored legislation establishing PEPFAR in 2003, and was the lead author of the Global AIDS and Tuberculosis Relief Act of 2000 which helped establish the Global Fund. Most recently, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law legislation authored by Lee to focus foreign assistance for children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS. She has represented California's ninth Congressional District since 1998.
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada. This was my fourth such conference since I was elected to Congress in 1998, and like many conferences before this one I was again impressed by the diversity of people, approaches, and issues that were raised.
I was specifically in town to speak on two issues that are really important to me: the HIV/AIDS crisis in Black America, and the increasing vulnerability of women and girls to this disease.
AIDS is devastating the African American community. According to the Centers for Disease Control African Americans now make up more than 50% of all new HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed each year. As Julian Bond the chairman of the NAACP made clear in this recent op-ed in the Washington Post "AIDS is now in our house. It's now our problem, and we must come up with solutions."
As part of a series of events at the conference with the Black AIDS Institute and prominent African American leaders, we announced a "National Call to Action and Declaration of Commitment to End the AIDS Epidemic in Black America."
Everyone has a role to play in stopping this disease, and that is a responsibility I take seriously in approaching my work in Congress.
As part of our efforts to address this epidemic among African Americans in the United States, I will soon be introducing legislation to allow the distribution of condoms in federal prisons and to provide comprehensive sex education, counseling, testing and treatment for incarcerated persons for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
As I have said on numerous occasions, we should not let ideology and political pandering dictate public health policy in the United States nor anywhere else in the world.
That's why on Monday I also joined with Stephen Lewis, the UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, in demanding an end to the 33% abstinence-only-until-marriage spending policy of the Bush Administration.
My new bill, H.R. 5674 the Protection Against Transmission of HIV for Women and Youth (PATHWAY) Act of 2006 will eliminate the ab-only spending requirement and will provide a comprehensive and integrated HIV prevention strategy to address the key factors that contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS among women and girls.
Together these two new initiatives can make a huge difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS. But we need your support to pass them into law.