House Launches HIV/AIDS Caucus

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Reps. McDermott, Franks, and Lee discuss the new HIV caucus. Behind them, standing left to right: Jeff Crowley, Donald Johnson, Michel Sidibe, and Amb. Eric Goosby.

The U.S. House of Representatives launched the first ever Congressional HIV/AIDS caucus last week, kicking off their efforts to combat the deadly disease with a press conference attended by several representatives and leaders in the fight against both domestic and global HIV.  Led by Reps. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Trent Franks (R-AZ), the bipartisan caucus has 59 members on board so far.

Referring to HIV/AIDS as a crushing attack on human dignity, caucus co-chair Rep. Franks said the U.S. should focus its attention on goals it can achieve now, such as eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015. Calling vertical transmission an area in which we must hurry to take action, he explained that if we do our job, “a new light of hope can fall upon the faces of the stricken.”

Caucus Co-Chair, Rep. Lee stated that although great progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, there are still 9 million people waiting for treatment in developing countries, their lives hanging in balance.  She said she hopes to see the U.S. put 6 million people on treatment by 2013 globally, while pushing more countries to assume greater responsibility for financing their own treatment efforts.

So far we’ve achieved what a decade ago seemed impossible, said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. Ten years ago no one believed that large numbers of people could be put on treatment: now seven million people are receiving treatment in developing countries.  On top of that, there has been a 20 percent reduction in new infections worldwide.

Sidibe said that as we can see the results of dollars invested in country after country, we now have a practical vision for the future: a generation free of HIV.  Currently 370,000 babies are born with the disease each year, and one-third of them will die before their first birthday.  Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) is fiscally sound, he said – an investment of $100 per child can prevent transmission while treatment for an infected child can cost upwards of $150,000 over the course of a lifetime.

Sidibe also emphasized that not enough attention is being paid to tuberculosis (TB), TB resistance, and HIV-TB co-infection.  With the right investment and support, we can reduce co-infection deaths by one million by 2015, he said.

U.S. Global AIDS Ambassador Eric Goosby said that with a toolbox more effective than ever, we’ve come too far to stop now and must recommit to ending the epidemic.  Congressional involvement is critical to do so and it’s necessary to come together in a bipartisan way with international partners to turn the epidemic around and decrease the number of infected, he said.

We can never be bystanders when the relief of suffering is in reach, and that indifference is not a strategy, said Michael Gerson, op-ed columnist for The Washington Post and a policy fellow with the ONE Campaign.  The global leadership surrounding the epidemic has always depended on the United States, he said, and the new caucus sends the message that U.S. leadership is going to continue.

Here is a complete list of caucus members:

Barbara Lee (CA)

Jim McDermott (WA)

Barney Franks (MA)

Madeleine Bordallo (GU)

Robert Brady (PA)

Michael Capuano (MA)

Donna Christensen (VI)

Steve Cohen (TN)

John Conyers Jr. (MI)

Eliot Engel (NY)

Maurice Hinchey (NY)

Jerold Nadler (NY)

Donald Payne (NJ)

Mike Quigley (IL)

John Olver (MA)

Charles Rangel (NY)

Edolphus Towns (NY)

G.K. Butterfield (NC)

Elijah Cummings (MD)

Albio Sires (NJ)

Bill Pascrell Jr. (NJ)

Janice Schakowsky (IL)

Maxine Waters (CA)

Bobby Rush (IL)

Alcee Hastings (FL)

Raúl Grijalva (AZ)

Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC)

Bobby Scott (VA)

Karen Bass (CA)

Luis Gutierrez (IL)

David Cicilline (RI)

John Lewis (GA)

Hank Johnson (GA)

Henry Waxman (CA)

Hansen Clarke (MI)

Judy Chu (CA)

Melvin Watt (NC)

Michael Honda (CA)

Nancy Pelosi (CA)

Bruce Braley (IA)

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL)

Corrine Brown (FL)

Carolyn Maloney (NY)

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL)

James Himes (CT)

Howard Berman (CA)

Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA)

Theodore Deutch (FL)

Tammy Baldwin (WI)

Kathy Castor (FL)

Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL)

John Carter (TX)

David McKinley (WV)

Frederica Wilson (FL)

José Serrano (NY)

Linda Sanchez (CA)

Charles Gonzales (TX)

Jackie Speier (CA)

Steven Rothman (NJ)

3 thoughts on “House Launches HIV/AIDS Caucus

  1. Cathy Indig

    How are the members decided on? If there are 59 members of the caucus so far, when will there be more, and will there be a representative from every state?

    1. Christine Lubinski

      The co-chairs send an invite out to the entire House of Representatives and followed up with calls to likely members. They are all eligible to join. There is some talk about making it a congressional HIV caucus instead of simply a House caucus but it is not clear whether this will happen. House members should certainly be encouraged to join.

  2. Pingback: Rep. Lee calls on Obama to lead the fight to end AIDS | Science Speaks: HIV & TB News

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