Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement in honor of World AIDS Day:
"Today, on World AIDS Day, we mourn the millions of people who have lost their lives over the decades at the same time we celebrate all that has been accomplished in the fight against this devastating disease. Within the past year, new HIV prevention breakthroughs have been announced. One of them, microbicides, offers women a means of prevention that they can employ themselves. Over 50 countries have seen their epidemics stabilize or decline, as new infection rates have begun to slow. Next year, for the first time in two decades, the International AIDS Society's annual meeting will be held on American soil. The U.S. can now host this meeting because we eliminated the visa restriction that banned HIV positive visitors from entering our country.
"All of these steps represent tremendous advances, but our progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS is in danger. There are those in Congress who have proposed that we roll back what they define as "non-security funding" to fiscal year 2008 levels. While I recognize the financial constraints under which we operate, we should not sacrifice the lives of people with HIV/AIDS. Going back to 2008 funding levels would mean cutting our global AIDS budget by over 12 percent. Such cuts would require us to scale back prevention programs just as we are learning to target them effectively. Cuts could mean freezing enrollment for treatment programs -- a virtual death sentence for HIV positive people.
"In Massachusetts, thousands of people are living with HIV/AIDS. We are making headway, but we need to do more to improve access to treatment, encourage testing, and promote prevention. We need to recognize new infection patterns so we can better respond to them. "Know Your Epidemic" is a global mandate, but we must also apply it closer to home. The same budget axe that could wipe out progress against global HIV/AIDS prevention could do the same in Massachusetts and across America. Our investment to combat this disease must not diminish."
Senator Kerry is committed to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts and around the world. Senator Kerry was an original cosponsor of the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2008, and he worked with former Senator Frist (R-TN) in 2002 on the comprehensive AIDS bill that laid the foundation for the program that became the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, better known as PEPFAR. In 2008, as part of Lantos-Hyde, the Senate overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation Senator Kerry co-authored with former Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) that eliminated the travel ban that prevented those with HIV from entering the United States.