Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-Miramar) made the following statement regarding HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, which is observed annually on May 18th to educate the public about HIV prevention and recognize the efforts of volunteers, community members, health professionals, and scientists to find a vaccine for HIV:
"HIV/AIDS has affected millions of people here at home and around the world for far too long. HIV Vaccine Awareness Day serves as a reminder that we cannot bring an end to HIV/AIDS until we find a way to prevent the transmission of the virus. While a cure for AIDS does not currently exist, I am hopeful that one will be obtainable in the near future. Until then, we need to utilize and expand methods that have been proven to reduce the spread of HIV, namely prevention and treatment.
"It is critically important that we continue to support programs dedicated to preventing and treating HIV, such as the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), syringe exchange programs, and initiatives to increase public awareness and access to screening and treatment services. Furthermore, we must continue to fund HIV/AIDS research, including efforts to develop a vaccine for HIV and find a cure for AIDS. A preventive vaccine for HIV would help prevent infection in individuals who do not already have HIV.
"Of the 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, one in five individuals is unaware of their infection. Therefore, screening remains a vital tool in our comprehensive strategy to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS. That is why I introduced H.R. 1774, the Increasing Access to Voluntary Screening for HIV/AIDS and STIs Act, which establishes a broad coverage policy for voluntary HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening that focuses on at-risk and historically underrepresented communities.
"It is also encouraging to hear that last week a Federal Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel recommended the use of a certain HIV drug as an additional preventive measure for at-risk individuals who are uninfected with HIV. In addition, an FDA advisory panel backed earlier this week the use of an over-the-counter, in-home HIV test. These developments further empower individuals to protect their health and the health of others.
"HIV Vaccine Awareness Day is a way to highlight the dire need for an HIV vaccine and honor those who are working to create a generation free of HIV/AIDS. In Congress, I will continue to do my part in this endeavor and support robust funding for HIV vaccine research, as well as for ADAP, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative, and the National AIDS Strategy. Now more than ever before, I believe that we have the power to end this crisis once and for all."