U.S. Congressman Howard L. Berman (CA-28), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today called on the international community to redouble its efforts to provide comprehensive prevention, treatment, and care for poor women worldwide who are living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.
"World AIDS Day provides an annual occasion to focus our thoughts on the pandemic, but every day it affects women around the globe in disproportionate numbers," Berman said. "The United States has been the global leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS with generous financial support. We should also lead the way in calling attention to the plight of women affected by this disease."
Berman noted that according to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, three-quarters of all HIV-positive people in Africa between the ages of 15 and 24 are women.
"The high HIV prevalence rate among poor women around the world, particularly in Africa, threatens the very survival of whole nations," Berman said. "Mothers dying from AIDS leave orphans. And studies have shown that mortality rates for children of HIV-positive mothers are about three times those of HIV-negative mothers."
Berman is the co-author of H.R. 5501, the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act, a five-year extension of the landmark U.S. effort to fight HIV/AIDS around the world. The bill authorized $48 billion for prevention, treatment and care where they are most needed, and expanded the program substantially to reach millions of people, primarily in Africa. It called for a specific strategy to prevent HIV infections in women and to end the sexual exploitation of women and girls. The bill was signed into law on July 30, 2008.
World AIDS Day was adopted by 140 countries in 1988. It is commemorated every December 1 to raise international awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has killed more than 25 million people since it began in 1981.
To demonstrate solidarity with HIV/AIDS victims worldwide, this year Berman wore a commemorative pin distributed by the California-based non-profit organization FACE AIDS, which has student chapters across the United States and works with Partners in Health to help provide free health care for HIV-affected communities in Africa. The pins are made by HIV-affected Rwandan women and children; profits from their sales provide startup capital for sustainable small businesses.