Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), a leading advocate in Congress for HIV/AIDS prevention, testing and treatment, released the following statement in recognition of National HIV Testing Day.
"Today is the 18th Annual National HIV Testing Day. HIV/AIDS can affect anyone regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation but we have the power to reduce the spread of HIV and create an AIDS-free generation. It all begins with getting tested for HIV to find out your status. On this 18th anniversary of National HIV Testing Day, I urge all Americans to do their part, educate themselves about the disease and get tested for HIV.
"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 1.2 million people living in the United States with HIV/AIDS. Of these 1.2 million Americans, nearly 20 percent do not know that they carry the disease. Without awareness of their HIV status, these individuals risk spreading the disease to others and deny themselves the opportunity to begin life-saving treatment.
"HIV/AIDS has had a particularly devastating impact on African-American communities in the United States. The CDC reports that African-Americans make up just 14 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 44 percent of all new HIV infections and make up nearly half of all people living with HIV. For these reasons, it is especially important for African-Americans to get tested for HIV. Only by getting tested can people discover their status, begin treatment and prevent the spread of the virus to others.
"To aid in the ongoing fight against this disease, I will continue my efforts to enhance HIV/AIDS awareness, testing and treatment. I recently reintroduced the Stop AIDS in Prison Act, which will require the Federal Bureau of Prisons to develop a comprehensive policy to combat HIV throughout the federal prison system.
"I have also worked to expand the Minority AIDS Initiative, which I established as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1998. In April, 54 of my colleagues joined me in requesting $610 million for fiscal year 2014.
"The National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) first declared National HIV Testing Day on this date in 1995. On this anniversary, let us acknowledge the continued importance of HIV testing, expand access to treatment, and reduce the stigma associated with the disease."