February 7, 2006
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) released the following statement on National Black AIDS Awareness Day:
"Today we recognize and commemorate the sixth National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness and Information Day, a day when we urge African Americans and all Americans to get educated, to get involved, to get tested, and to get treated.
"The statistics are sobering. The CDC estimates that over one million people were living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2003. Although African Americans represent about 12 percent of the population, they account for nearly 50 percent of all people living with HIV/AIDS. African American women are also disproportionately affected, accounting for over 60 percent of all infections among women.
"In my district in Alameda County over 6,600 cases of AIDS have been diagnosed since 1980, and nearly 4,000 people have died. Of those numbers African Americans represent well over 40% of the cumulative AIDS cases and AIDS deaths in the county.
"There can be no debate. AIDS is a public health emergency within the African American community, and National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is our clarion call.
"National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is about empowerment. Empowering ourselves, each other, and our communities to raise awareness about HIV; to put the tools in our hands to stop the spread of this disease; and to demand access to care, treatment, and social services for everyone affected by this devastating disease.
"This struggle for empowerment today mirrors in many ways the battle for civil rights fought a generation ago and reflected in the legacy of Mrs. Coretta Scott King -- an incredible and courageous leader in her own right who bridged the gap between the movement and HIV/AIDS.
"Together with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and leaders of the faith community Mrs. King spread a message of equality, justice, and peace for all and played a critical and inspiring role in awakening the national consciousness to embrace the ideals of the civil rights movement.
"Today we again need the leadership and the compassion of the faith community to help those affected by HIV/AIDS and to guard those who are most vulnerable to this disease. As we bid our final farewell to Mrs. King, her legacy and her words live on.
"'To eradicate AIDS, we must first and foremost cure our own hearts of the fear and ignorance that leads to the ostracism of people with HIV and AIDS. The real shame falls not on the people with AIDS, but on those who would deny their humanity.'
"We owe it to the memory of Mrs. King and the legacy of the civil rights movement to stand together out of hope and compassion for what is possible, and above all, to act."