NATIONAL LATINO AIDS AWARENESS -- (Senate - October 07, 2005)
Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, even as our Nation faces new public health challenges, it is crucial that we not lose sight of a devastating disease that has remained a challenge for decades the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Over the past two decades, the Nation has witnessed tremendous strides in the diagnosis and treatment of this disease, and overall, affected individuals are living longer and in better health. Yet approximately 40,000 Americans are still infected every year, half of whom are under the age of 25, and over 1 million Americans are living with this disease. My own State of Illinois ranks sixth in the Nation for HIV/AIDS, and our health officials and experts continue to work diligently to reduce the number of newly infected, as well as provide high quality care to those who are infected.
As with so many diseases, HIV/AIDS has had a disproportionate impact on the Latino community. While representing only 14 percent of the U.S. population, Latinos comprise 20 percent of the population affected by HIV/AIDS. However, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, the number of estimated deaths among Latinos with AIDS is actually increasing--a 17 percent growth between 1999 and 2003.
As the largest and fastest growing ethnic minority group in the U.S., it is imperative that HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in the Latino community remain a top priority for our Nation.
I am proud to join Representative HILDA SOLIS, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' Task Force on Health, and other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus, in recognizing October 15 as National Latino AIDS Awareness Day. On this day, we renew our commitment to ending the spread of HIV and ensuring quality of life to those with HIV regardless of their country of origin or immigration status. We do this whether we are Latino, African American, Asian, Caucasian or Native American. Although we all belong to separate communities, it is important that we stand as one community in the fight against this disease that is rapidly targeting populations of color.
The numbers are growing and so should our national attention towards the issue. The reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act is an example of how our Nation can help. It is also critical to increase funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative, MAI, which addresses the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on people of color by allocating specific funds for programs under the Ryan White CARE Act. Programs like Ryan White provide our most vulnerable populations, such as HIV/AIDS-stricken Latinos, with a chance for quality health care and a brighter future.
On October 15 and every other day of the year, I encourage all of us to join in the fight against HIV and AIDS. We cannot become complacent. The need is great, and the time to act is overdue.