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News release: CDC boosts U.S. HIV rate 40%; people living with HIV, allies demand response from Presidential candidates

AIDS2008.com news release:

Eyes Wide Open, But is Vision Still Lacking? As CDC boosts current and historical HIV rate in United States, people living with HIV and allies demand response from Presidential candidates

In country lacking national AIDS strategy, data confirms 40% higher infection rate, persistent epidemic in Black Americans, and rising rates in gay men

This Sunday, August 3 at 9 am EST, CDC will announce a revised estimate of HIV incidence in the United States. The new estimate of approximately 56,000 annual infections will be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and presented publicly at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. The revision also includes a back-calculation revealing that, for the last 15 years, infection rates were approximately 25 – 50% higher than the long-held 40,000 annual estimate.

People living with HIV and other HIV prevention justice activist, expressing sadness and anger at this news, demand a response from Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, the presumptive nominees for our next President:

Mark McLaurin, Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP) Board Member:

"This improved estimate means little if it does not serve as the spark to inflame our collective anger about the deadly neglect of an acute emergency. This week, President Bush signed a new global AIDS bill, but persistent underfunding and restrictions here at home tie our hands in combating the epidemic in our own backyard.

The time to argue whether this is a Black epidemic or a gay disease is over. It's absolutely and distinctly both, as we will see in this new data. And if you are a young, gay Black man, the likelihood that you will encounter HIV is staggeringly high, even if your personal behavior is no more 'risky' than people in other communities.

How many interventions has CDC developed to reach the diverse populations of gay men of African and Caribbean descent in this nation who are facing some of the highest rates of HIV infection on this planet? One. And it has reached just a tiny fraction of the men in need.

If we lack the courage to demand, develop and deploy a comprehensive and accountable national AIDS strategy that confronts the hard truths of poverty and bias that fuel the epidemic, we dishonor the memory and struggles of all we have lost to this disease, all who continue to fight for their lives in the face of so many challenges, and all who will become infected in the coming days, months, and years."

Jim Pickett, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Director of Advocacy:

"Buried in the release will be alarming new evidence that HIV prevention efforts in the U.S. are failing gay men of all colors. Where infection rates for other populations are holding steady or showing slight declines, HIV infections among gay men tragically continue to climb. This is a direct result of years of policy and programs that demonize and ignore the sexual health needs of gay men, especially African-American and Latino gay men who bear the brunt of the epidemic in the U.S.

Gay men of all colors face significant health disparities that directly impact the incidence and prevalence of HIV in their lives. We must prioritize a holistic, asset-based gay men's health agenda that goes well beyond a "navel to knee" focus. In addition to affirming a comprehensive, culturally sensitive response to the sexual health needs of gay men, we must also address their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health needs that, when neglected, foster the conditions in which HIV thrives."

Walt Senterfitt, PhD, RN, MPH, CHAMP Board Co-Chair:

"As with so many issues in HIV/AIDS, we do not have to hunt for a conspiracy to explain how we have found ourselves in this troubling state of affairs. The damning evidence is right out in the open.

Our country has no national AIDS strategy; flat, and then actually declining, funding for HIV prevention; persistent, Jesse Helms-era restrictions on proven means of effective prevention; and the pernicious intersection of HIV and major social injustices, such as mass imprisonment of the racial and ethnic groups disproportionately impacted by the epidemic as well as the sanction of bias against sexual and gender minorities.

Shortly after this announcement, Senators McCain and Obama will speak at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, where they will face questions on HIV/AIDS. Will they take this opportunity to call out for bold measures in the domestic epidemic, including a national AIDS strategy, full funding for honest HIV prevention and groundbreaking research, and an end to homophobic abstinence-only-until-marriage programs? Or will they continue to relegate the domestic epidemic to the back-burner of this campaign?"

Julie Davids, CHAMP Executive Director:

"What we have now confirmed is that on the day this article will be published, it's likely that another American will become HIV positive about every ten minutes – over a third of whom are under 30 years old.

Will we point fingers at them and cast blame, further fueling stigma?

Or will we finally take a long, unflinching look at a country that tolerates bullying and unrelenting violence against LGBT youth, funds ideologically motivated programs in our schools, defunds and suppresses research on sexuality and public health, swells our jails and prisons by locking up unprecedented numbers of people from the racial and ethnic communities hardest-hit by HIV, and has never provided necessary HIV prevention education and tools to any significant percentage of the population?

The bottom line is that the HIV epidemic in the US continues to spread, and at a rate greater than was previously thought. The real measure of political leaders and the American people is if this bad news spurs good action – the establishment of a comprehensive and accountable national AIDS strategy that will eliminate barriers to effective prevention, generate adequate resources, and hold our government accountable for ending this epidemic."

The Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP) is dedicated to HIV prevention justice, bridging HIV/AIDS, human rights, and struggles for social and economic justice in order to ensure the development and use of a broad and effective range of HIV prevention options in the next decade. CHAMP is the sponsor of AIDS2008.org, a community media initiative at the 2008 International AIDS Conference in Mexico City

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