Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) today urged the White House to address the rising HIV rate in the South and among women -- particularly women of color.
Their letter, co-signed by 50 colleagues, urged the Administration to develop and support specific approaches to reduce new HIV cases, increase access to care, and reduce health disparities in Southern states, including addressing underlying structural and social factors contributing to the spread of HIV.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Co-Chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, said: "While we have made tremendous progress, make no mistake -- HIV/AIDS is devastating communities of color, women, and young gay and bisexual men in the U.S. If we are going to truly end the AIDS epidemic in this country, we must address the underlying issues of race, education, sex, poverty and stigma which continue to fuel the spread of HIV in certain communities. Nowhere is this more critical than in the South, where HIV transmission is alarmingly high. Unless we stand up and fight for our right to live, our friends and family members, and our brothers and sisters, will continue to suffer and die because of this preventable and treatable disease."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), black women make up 66 percent of all new HIV infections among women in the United States. A recent report on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the South found that among persons living with HIV, nine of the 10 states with the highest HIV case fatality rates were in the South and women of color have been found to be less likely than men and white women to start antiretroviral therapy.
"Black women are getting sick and dying at an outrageous rate, while resources for treatment and prevention are totally inadequate -- especially in the South," said Johnson. "This epidemic needs urgent attention at the highest levels."