A Thank You to Congresswoman Barbara Lee


As
I was looking thorough the massive International AIDS Conference booklet,
full of sessions taking place at the conference and trying to decide
which session I wanted to attend, I saw that Congresswoman Barbara Lee
was one of the speakers at the session about travel restrictions on
people living with HIV.  Barbara Lee is well known for being an
activist in the sexual and reproductive rights movement–more specifically
an advocate for sexual and reproductive rights of young people in the
United States and abroad.

During
her speech, Rep. Lee talked about how Congress removed the travel restriction
for people with living with HIV; however, the Department of Health and
Human Services has yet to lift its restriction. Hopefully, the ban will
be lifted completely before the end of President Bush’s term. When
I posed a question during the session as to what we, young people, should
demand of our next president, Congresswoman Lee, without any hesitation,
came up with a very comprehensive list of demands that included: the
repeal of the global gag rule, integration of family planning services
and comprehensive sexual education into PEPFAR, removal of the prostitution
pledge, and finding an effective way to address gender violence. She
also did not forget the domestic policy reforms that included defunding
abstinence-only programs, authorization of the REAL Act, support for
clean needle exchange programs, and the creation of a domestic PEPFAR.
In other words, she listed everything I, as an advocate for the sexual
and reproductive health of young people, have been working towards for
almost three years now. 

It’s
comforting to have a policy maker speak out and advocate on behalf of
vulnerable youth.  After having been disappointed by President
Clinton’s failure to mention young people in his keynote speech and
Ban Ki-moon’s failure to make a commitment to youth during his visit
to the Youth Pavilion, I was comforted to know that youth are not alone
as long as we have policy makers such as Congresswoman Barbara Lee on
our side.  So, I want to take this opportunity to thank her, once
again, for doing such amazing work with policy in Congress and for not
being afraid to speak out on issues concerning the sexual and reproductive
health of young people. 

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