February 12, 2010

Gillibrand Unveils Comprehensive Plan To Battle HIV/AIDS Among African American Communities

Legislation Strengthens HIV/AIDS Prevention to Help African American Women, Men and Youth

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced today that she has introduced comprehensive legislation in the Senate to reduce, prevent, treat and fight against HIV/AIDS among African American communities. The National Black Clergy for the Elimination of HIV/AIDS Act of 2009, which was authored and introduced in the House by Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY), would expand outreach and prevention efforts, train health care providers, create care centers, and develop research to find solutions to fight this disease that has hit nearly 48,000 African Americans citywide and an estimated half a million nationwide.

“HIV/AIDS continues to have a devastating impact on African Americans, particularly young women who make up a disproportionate share of newly diagnosed cases,” Senator Gillibrand said. “This legislation provides federal investments in early prevention and access to affordable care that are needed to combat this horrible disease. By investing these critical resources, we can help protect some of those most vulnerable and save lives.”

“I commend Senator Gillibrand for introducing this important legislation in the Senate which recognizes the important leadership role of faith-based communities in fighting the AIDS epidemic,” said Congressman Rangel. “If passed, the bill will enhance the education, prevention, and treatment of the disease which is the main cause of death for African American men and women ages 25-44.”

Reverend Calvin Butts said, “Senator Gillibrand has taken a major step forward in introducing the National Black Clergy for the Elimination of HIV/AIDS Act.  This critical legislation will help give us the tools to fight HIV/AIDS. With one in every two new individuals infected with HIV being African American it is critically important that we address this devastating disease in our communities.  The National Medical Association representing 30 thousand African American physicians have joined with clergy in support of this legislation to reduce barriers and ensure linkage to testing, treatment and care. I encourage Congress to act quickly in passing this critical bill.”

C. Virginia Fields, the CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, said, “I commend and thank Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for her leadership in introducing this historic legislation, H.R. 1964, into the U.S. Senate. This action demonstrates her deep commitment to addressing the urgent unmet needs for prevention, treatment and care for HIV and AIDS among people of African descent throughout the nation.”

Highlights of the National Black Clergy for the Elimination of HIV/AIDS Act of 2009:

  • Strengthening HIV/AIDS Education. The Gillibrand-Rangel legislation offers funding to expand HIV/AIDS education through public schools, faith-based groups, and organizations closely tied to communities that help African American women, youth, and men.
  • Providing Affordable Access to Care to African Americans and Children. The bill includes training primary care providers in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, creating health centers that offer mental and emotional counseling for those with HIV/AIDS, and encouraging voluntary, routine HIV testing as part of all health exams. 
  • Helping At-Risk Youth. The legislationprovides grants for substance abuse treatment to youths who are HIV positive or at-risk for HIV/AIDS as well as those homeless or in foster care.
  • Launching a National Media Outreach Campaign. The public outreach effort will urge those who are sexually active to be tested immediately, with a particular focus on African American women.
  • Developing Research to Find Effective Solutions. Under this bill, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services would submit specific recommendations for federal policies that would reduce the burden of HIV/AIDS in the African American community.

In New York City, African Americans make up more than half of all new diagnoses of HIV/AIDS while the rate among Caucasians decreased by nearly 45%, according to a Gillibrand report in April. The rates of new AIDS cases citywide is more than three times the national average, with young African American women accounting for an alarming 69% of new cases.

The legislation that Senator Gillibrand introduced would create new funding channels among various federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Service Office of Minority Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health.