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In Recognition of National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BUTTERFIELD. Mr. Speaker, I rise in recognition of National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day which occurred yesterday. This day is symbolic of communities, government leaders, schools and most importantly today's young people leading the effort to end the HIV and AIDS pandemic that is still rapidly spreading among our nation's teens and young adults more than 30 years after it was first discovered.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV and AIDS education and prevention information has made great strides in slowing infection and mortality rates, however young people between the ages of 13 and 24 account for 26 percent of new HIV infections each year, with nearly 60 percent unaware that they are infected.

The Advocates for Youth organization in conjunction with 11 other founding partners are supporting young people in the fight against HIV and AIDS. This national day marks an important step toward recognizing the key role that future generations play in becoming leaders in disease prevention and education.

Three years ago, the White House unveiled the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, our country's first-ever comprehensive plan with measurable goals to be achieved by 2015. This plan calls for a renewed commitment and increased public attention to meet three goals: reduce the number of people who become infected with HIV; increase access to care and improve health outcomes for people living with HIV; and reduce HIV-related health disparities. In outlining these goals, President Obama challenged everyone to partner in supporting the implementation of the innovative strategy ``that provides a clear direction for moving forward together.''

North Carolina ranks in the top ten states for rates of new HIV infection. This alarming statistic is one of the reasons why medical professionals such as Dr. Michelle Collins-Ogle, of Northern Outreach Clinic in Henderson, North Carolina are so passionate about offering illness education, prevention, testing, and medical intervention. Even with few resources, Dr. Ogle, the clinic's director, fights not just the disease but the perceived stigma of the disease as well.

As a former civil rights attorney I applaud the efforts of organizations who are advocating for the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS. Organizations such as the North Carolina AIDS Action Network, who mobilized support to persuade the AIDS Drug Assistance Program to reopen new enrollments for low-income people needing access to life-saving HIV medication. I want to also recognize Duke University's AIDS Legal Project, a pro bono program that trains law school students to serve the unmet need of providing legal counsel to highly stigmatized, low-income HIV-infected clients.

Combating HIV and AIDS, as with any other illness plaguing this country, requires a partnership for success. That partnership must include action on behalf of our governing bodies, healthcare providers, and individual citizens to keep these issues at the forefront of the minds of all Americans.

Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in recognizing April 10th as National Youth HIV & Awareness Day as we salute the efforts of young people nationwide who are tirelessly and effectively working toward achieving the goal of an AIDS-free generation.

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