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Welcoming the XIX International Aids Conference to Washington, DC

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to welcome the XIX International AIDS Conference, AIDS 2012, back to Washington, DC. On July 22, 2012, more than 30,000 people from approximately 200 countries are expected to converge on Washington, DC, for AIDS 2012, including 20,000 delegates, 10,000 additional participants in the Global Village, and up to 2,000 journalists. Over the course of the Conference, which runs through July 27, 2012, the world's leading scientists, public health experts, policymakers, community leaders, and persons living with HIV/AIDS will chart the way forward in the global response to HIV/AIDS by turning the latest scientific advancements into action.

The III International AIDS Conference was held in our Nation's capital in 1987, the same year that the United States established a policy barring HIV-positive foreigners from obtaining permanent immigration status or entering the United States without special waivers. As a result, no major scientific conferences on HIV/AIDS have been held in this country since--until now. Thanks to years of advocacy by countless individuals and the leadership of former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, the misguided travel and immigration ban against people with HIV was lifted in 2010. This was a critical step forward in addressing societal stigma and discriminatory practices against people living with HIV/AIDS.

The return of the International AIDS Conference to the United States could not come at a more critical time. Here at home, more than one million people are living with HIV and approximately 50,000 individuals become newly infected with the virus each year. And among individuals living with HIV, one in five is unaware of his or her infection. This not only increases one's risk for developing worse health outcomes and unknowingly transmitting the virus to others, but undermines HIV prevention efforts as a whole. Furthermore, significant disparities persist across diverse communities and populations with regard to incidence, access to treatment, and health outcomes, particularly for men who have sex with men, MSM, African Americans and other minorities, women, and young people.

However, more than 30 years after the beginning of the epidemic, we are now at a point where we have the tools necessary to prevent the spread of HIV and bring an end to the crisis. The theme of AIDS 2012, ``Turning the Tide Together,'' represents the challenge before us. In order to change the course of HIV/AIDS in the United States and abroad, we must harness the potential of the most recent scientific advances in HIV/AIDS treatment and biomedical prevention, continue research for a HIV vaccine and cure, and scale up effective, evidence-based interventions in key settings. As the world's leader in HIV research and the largest funder of international AIDS programs, including the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, TB, and Malaria, continued commitment by the United States to HIV/AIDS research, prevention, and treatment programs is crucial to improving global health.

Mr. Speaker, AIDS 2012 is a tremendous opportunity to further strengthen the role of the United States in global HIV/AIDS initiatives within the current context of significant global economic challenges. Therefore, I urge my colleagues to join me in welcoming the delegates and participants of AIDS 2012 to Washington, DC, as well as commit to helping support a stronger international response to HIV/AIDS, advancing the health and rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, and working to create an ``AIDS-free generation.''

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