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By California Black Media
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-12) marked Worlds AIDS Day on Dec. 1, with a critical call-to-action.
The Congressmember, who is running for U.S. Senate, urged her colleagues to pass legislation that will reauthorize the PEPFARprogram, a U.S. government-supported global initiative that provides lifesaving HIV medications to people in the United States and around the world who can’t afford to buy them.
“World AIDS Day is an opportunity to celebrate the incredible progress we have made toward becoming an AIDS-free generation. In the past two decades we’ve saved 25 million lives, especially among the Black community globally, through transformative programs like PEPFAR,” said Lee in a statement.
In 2003, with bipartisan support — and after vocal and extensive advocacy by members of the Congressional Black Caucus — Congress passed the law approving the program. Former President George Bush, who famously championed the program, signed it into law.
On Nov. 30, Dr. Robyn Neblett Fanfair, acting division director in the Division of HIV Prevention at the National Center for HIV and the Centers for Disease Control, said the AIDS crisis is at a crossroads.
“Together with ongoing commitment, we can honor the hundreds of thousands of lives lost to HIV-related illness in the United States and millions worldwide by ensuring that everyone benefits equally from four decades of groundbreaking scientific advances,” Fanfair said in a letter.
“For 20 years, PEPFAR has been one of our nation’s most profound and transformational investments globally. Five and a half million babies have been born HIV-free because of the critical work funded by the program,” Lee continued.
The PEPFAR program is credited with significantly lowering the AIDS death rates in Black communities across the United States, where there is still a disproportionate number of HIV cases and where incidents continue to increase. For example, in Los Angeles County, which includes California’s largest and most populous city, there was a 13% year-over-year increase in new HIV cases between the last two years, according to data compiled by the LA County Department of Health.
PEPFAR is also lauded for turning around the epidemic in Africa, where it was most severe when the initiative was established.
“On World AIDS Day, I call upon my colleagues in Congress to reignite the bipartisanship that has been linked to PEPFAR for so long and act swiftly to keep this lifesaving program alive,” said Lee.