UPDATE: Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) turns her back on the Global AIDS community and withdraws her co-sponsorship to support Congressional Resolution 131 expressing support for international cooperation to combat HIV/AIDS.
For weeks, AIDS advocates have been working tirelessly in a bipartisan manner to have the legislative branch of the United States express its support of the XIX International AIDS Conference which ends today in Washington DC. This is the first International AIDS Conference (IAC) was held in 1985 and hosted in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1990, San Francisco, California hosted the last time the IAC was in the United States.
In 2009, President Obama signed off on the repeal of the unconscionable HIV travel ban that was based on fear and not medical science. Last week, I had the pleasure to speak with President Obama while visiting South Florida and we spoke about the International AIDS Conference and his repealing the HIV-travel ban under his watch.
Minutes before the close of business yesterday, the US Senate passed Senate Resolution 5320726 FINAL AIDS 2012 Conference resolution [pdf] by unanimous consent. The measure was led by Florida's senior Senator Bill Nelson and co-sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Maria Cantwell ( WA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Ben Cardin (D-MD); Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Herb Kohl (D-WI).
The Senate Resolution resolved that the Senate:
- supports the XIX International AIDS Conference and the goal of renewing awareness of, and commitment to, addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States and abroad;
- recognizes that continued HIV/AIDS research, prevention, and treatment programs are crucial to improving global health;
- understands that the key to overcoming HIV/AIDS includes efforts to formulate sound public health policy, protect human rights, address the needs of women and girls, direct effective programming toward the populations at the highest risk of infection, ensure accountability, and combat stigma, poverty, and other social challenges related to HIV/AIDS;
- seeks to work with all stakeholders--
- to prevent the transmission of HIV;
- to increase access to testing, treatment, and care;
- to improve health outcomes for all people living with HIV/AIDS; and
- to foster greater scientific and programmatic collaborations around the world to translate scientific advances and apply best practices to international efforts to end HIV/AIDS;
- commits to supporting a stronger global response to HIV/AIDS, protecting the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, and working to create an ''AIDS-free generation''; and
- encourages the ongoing development in the public and private sectors of innovative therapies and advances in clinical treatment for HIV/AIDS, including--
- new and improved biomedical and behavioral prevention strategies;
- safer and more affordable, accessible, and effective treatment regimens for infected individuals; and
- research for an HIV vaccine and cure.
In the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congressman Alcee Hastings have each introduced similar measures. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Relations even co-sponsored the measure introduced by Lee. But for some unknown reason, Speaker John Boehner refuses to bring the measure to the floor of the House for a vote.
As a person living with AIDS, the actions of the GOP House leadership smack of the days when President Ronald Reagan refused to utter the very word "AIDS" during his time as President. 30 years later in the epidemic at a time when the world in rallying in our nation's capital, the Speaker of the House is mirroring the early days of AIDS when a President dragged his feet to address the issue and wouldn't even say the word AIDS.
I'm personally grateful to Senator Nelson who has continually fought for not just Floridians living with HIV/AIDS, but all people living with or affected by HIV. Several years ago, the Senator and I talked about his visit to Africa with John McCain to better understand the issue of Global AIDS. He then went on to quiz me on how my own health was doing and wanted to understand the common barriers and struggle of many people living with HIV/AIDS in America.
Since that time, my senator has been a champion in the fight for increased funding for programs that will help people living with HIV/AIDS access lifesaving care and treatment and other efforts to help move us forward to an AIDS-free generation.
Mr. Speaker, please bring the resolution immediate to the floor of the House to dignify the living of so many suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world.