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Press Release

Congresswoman Waters Urges Senate to Pass the Stop AIDS in Prison Act

September 25, 2008

Washington, D.C. -- Yesterday, Rep. Maxine Waters (D CA) sent a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, urging them to pass H.R. 1943, the Stop AIDS in Prison Act, before Congress adjourns. The Stop AIDS in Prison Act was passed by the House of Representatives last year by voice vote under suspension of the rules. The bill was then referred to the Senate where it remains pending in the Judiciary Committee.

"The Stop AIDS in Prison Act is a bold step to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in our nation's prisons and to prevent inmates from infecting other persons in the community following their release from prison," said Congresswoman Waters.

The Congresswoman's letter was signed by Rep. John Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; Rep. Lamar S. Smith, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee; Rep. Robert C. Scott, Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, which has jurisdiction over federal prisons; and Rep. Randy Forbes, former Ranking Member of that subcommittee.

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"The Stop AIDS in Prison Act has the strong support of House Judiciary leaders, and it is critical that the Senate pass this bill before Congress adjourns," said the Congresswoman.

The Stop AIDS in Prison Act requires the Federal Bureau of Prisons to develop a comprehensive policy to provide HIV testing, treatment and prevention for inmates in Federal prisons. This bill requires the Bureau of Prisons to test all Federal prison inmates for HIV upon entering prison and again prior to release from prison, unless the inmate opts out of taking the test. The bill also requires HIV/AIDS prevention education for all inmates and comprehensive treatment for those inmates who test positive.

"AIDS is spreading in our nation's jails and prisons. In 2005, the Department of Justice reported that the rate of confirmed AIDS cases in prisons was three times higher than in the general population. We need to take the threat of HIV/AIDS seriously and confront it in every institution of our society. That includes our nation's prison system," said the Congresswoman.

The Stop AIDS in Prison Act was endorsed by several prominent HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations, including AIDS Action, The AIDS Institute, the National Minority AIDS Council, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the HIV Medicine Association, AIDS Project Los Angeles, and BIENESTAR (a Latino community service and advocacy organization), as well as the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles Times.

Congresswoman Waters is the Co-Chair of the AIDS Task Force of the Congressional Black Caucus. She has sponsored four initiatives in the 110th Congress to promote HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention, testing and treatment.

  1. She introduced H.R. 822, the Routine HIV/AIDS Screening Coverage Act. This bill would require health insurance plans to cover routine HIV tests under the same terms and conditions as other routine health screenings and therefore encourage and enable more Americans to be tested for HIV/AIDS. This bill has over 40 cosponsors.
  2. She is continuing her efforts to expand the Minority AIDS Initiative, which she established back in 1998 to expand HIV testing, treatment and prevention among racial and ethnic minorities. HIV/AIDS is more prevalent in minority communities. On March 19, 2008, she sent a letter to House appropriators requesting $610 million for the Minority AIDS Initiative in fiscal year 2009, and 79 Members of Congress signed her letter.
  3. She introduced H.R. 1943, the Stop AIDS in Prison Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives on September 25, 2007, and now awaits consideration in the Senate.
  4. She introduced H.Res. 1359, a resolution to honor the first annual National Clinicians HIV/AIDS Testing and Awareness Day. A total of 29 Members of Congress cosponsored this resolution.


  
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This article was provided by National Minority AIDS Council. Visit NMAC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 
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