Do Your Part to Fight AIDS and Get Tested

Around 40 million people in the world are living with HIV/AIDS, and millions more are infected each year.  Though we have taken steps to combat the disease, the global epidemic must be fought on a number of fronts with every nation as a partner.  Education and prevention campaigns, promotion of testing, and consistent treatment are critical to fighting HIV/AIDS.  Only with the help every nation, local organizations, and communities can we fight this growing epidemic and ensure that people living with HIV/AIDS, in America and abroad, have access to quality care and life-saving treatments.

I hope that World AIDS Day, December 1, 2006, will serve as a reminder to people across the globe of the importance of getting tested for HIV and knowing one’s status.  Making an HIV test part of a routine physical exam is an important step toward improving treatment of HIV/AIDS patients and stopping the spread of the disease.  By identifying HIV-positive individuals sooner, doctors can provide patients with better access to life-saving and life-extending care.

For so long, we could only treat the symptoms of AIDS and provide comfort to the dying.  Today, we have the ability to fight back against HIV itself.  We have medicines that can effectively halt the evolution of HIV and help people live normal lives.

The nature of the epidemic in the United States has changed drastically over the last 25 years, since HIV/AIDS was first diagnosed, and the way the government funds treatment for the disease must reflect these changes.

More and more women, minorities, and people in the South and rural areas are being infected with HIV/AIDS.  Recognizing this, I have worked with Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) on a bill to modernize and strengthen our domestic response to HIV/AIDS, the Ryan White CARE Act, to ensure that Americans in need can receive access to treatment and prevention, regardless of their gender, race, or where they live.

I also look forward to working with my colleagues in the next Congress to evaluate and strengthen our global response to this disease.  We have the technology and know-how to stop AIDS from killing people and destroying families.  We need to employ this technology and know-how in the best, most efficient manner possible.

Though we have made tremendous strides in the last several years, the task before us remains daunting, as these statistics on HIV/AIDS from the United Nations Program on AIDS (UNAIDS) reveal:

Approximately 40 million, and perhaps as many 47.1 million, people in the world are living with HIV/AIDS.
4.3 million new HIV/AIDS cases were diagnosed in 2006.
2.9 million people died of AIDS in 2006.
More than 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981.

In developing countries 6.8 million people are in immediate need of life-saving AIDS drugs, but only 1.65 million are receiving treatment.

Sub-Saharan Africa has been struck hardest by the epidemic, with 24.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS, a 5.9 percent prevalence rate in the adult population, and 2.1 million AIDS deaths in 2006. Africa has 12 million AIDS orphans.

This is a global problem that requires a global solution.  We must all do more to raise awareness and halt the spread of this deadly disease.

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