Fighting the HIV/AIDS Pandemic

The crisis of HIV/AIDS has been at the forefront of the Congressional Black Caucus agenda for a long time—longer than I’ve been a member of the House—not only internationally, but domestically.  African Americans constitute 12 percent of the nation’s population, yet they account for 50 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases in America.  African American women account for 67 percent of female HIV/AIDS cases nationally.

It seems that there are those whose consciences are not pricked by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, perhaps because they think the spread of the disease is the result of what they consider to be lewd or lascivious behavior.  What they need to realize is that a lot of HIV/AIDS patients are victims twice over.  Many patients contract the disease as a result of sexual violence and statutory rape, and in some cases they are born with the disease as a result of their mother’s infection.

The city of Milwaukee, which comprises most of my district, has the second highest rate of teen pregnancy in the nation, with 71 percent of the babies born to teen mothers there being the product of statutory rape.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently reported that between 30 and 44 percent of teenage mothers have been victims of rape or attempted rape in the past, and that 23 percent of sexual assault victims are impregnated by their assailants.  These statistics show us that there is a lot of sexual activity occurring in our city that is nonconsensual and unprotected.

Earlier this week, I joined my Congressional Black Caucus colleagues in getting tested for the disease, receiving an HIV/AIDS “swab test