Co-authored by Meico Whitlock, AIDS.gov Fellow
The nation’s HIV/AIDS epidemic was a key topic of discussion during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 2011 Annual Legislative Conference held earlier this fall. Thousands of African American elected officials, business leaders, media representatives, and others assembled for the four-day event in Washington, DC.
HIV/AIDS Special Focus of Women’s Health Summit
The conference got underway with a summit on women’s health that had a special focus on HIV/AIDS and African American women. The summit was convened by several partners including the National Council of Negro Women National Action Network (NAN).
Congresswoman Lee Reflects on 30 Years of AIDS
The Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA) hosted a session commemorating 30 years of HIV/AIDS, entitled “A View of HIV/AIDS at 30.” Panelists reflected on the last 30 years of the epidemic. They celebrated the accomplishments and successes, such as the reduction of mother-to-child transmission, significant advances in treatment, and the development of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). Panelists also underscored the need to address increasing rates of new HIV infection within the African American community, particularly among young gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. Representative Lee discussed the recent launch of the bipartisan Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus which she co-chairs. She noted that it had 59 members at its launch. Congresswoman Lee also announced that she had recently introduced a bill that would create incentives and support for states to reform existing policies that use the criminal law to target people living with HIV and punish behavior that is otherwise legal or that poses no measurable risk of HIV transmission. Congresswoman Donna Christensen (U.S. Virgin Islands) also participated, discussing Congressional efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities.
Examining HIV Criminalization Issues
Another session, coordinated by the CBCF’s Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, examined the issue of HIV criminalization in more depth. Ms. Catherine Hanssens of the Center for HIV Law and Policy discussed her organization’s advocacy work on this issue and highlighted information resources available from them. Mr. Terrance Moore from the National Alliance of State and Territorial Directors (NASTAD ) shared preliminary findings of a survey that gathered information regarding states’ awareness of policies and practices that sanction the criminalization of exposure and/or transmission of HIV. The complete findings from the survey will be released by NASTAD later this fall. Ms. Allison Nichol of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) discussed her agency’s work to investigate claims of HIV discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. She highlighted the new ADA.gov/AIDS website which presents information about the rights of people live with HIV/AIDS and allows the public to file discrimination complaints with the Department of Justice.
AIDS.gov at the ALC
Finally, AIDS.gov had the opportunity to engage with many ALC participants at our booth in the exhibit hall where we launched the 2011 Facing AIDS for World AIDS Day photo sharing campaign. In addition, we collaborated with our colleagues at the Red Pump Project to leverage Twitter to promote the several sessions about HIV/AIDS and to share information with followers live from those sessions.