|Lewis Visits Quilt Panels On World AIDS Day
Washington, DC—Today Rep. John Lewis donned a red pin to commemorate World AIDS Day and took time to visit the AIDS Memorial Quilt panels displayed on Capitol Hill. The Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus co-chaired by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Trent Franks (R-AZ), and Jim McDermott (D-WA) in conjunction with the World AIDS Institute sponsored an exhibit on the U.S. Capitol campus of panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt and of portraits representing 30 years of AIDS to underscore the continuing work that must be done to rid the world of this disease.
The exhibit honors more than 30 million people around the world who have died from AIDS, the 70 milion who have been infected with HIV, and those individuals like the late Elizabeth Taylor and Diana, the Princess of Wales and others who dedicated part of their charitable lives to the fight against HIV/AIDS. The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt was a series of 44,000 three by six foot panels that commemorate the life of an individual who has died from AIDS. These panels were created by partners, family and friends when AIDS had reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. and the entire quilt was displayed on the National Mall in 1987.
The face of the epidemic has changed since 1987; HIV/AIDS has reached alarming rates in the Southern region.
· 46% of the new AIDS diagnoses in America were in the South
· Of the estimated 455,636 (including children) persons living with AIDS 40% live in the South
· Of the estimated 14,110 (including children) persons who died with AIDS 50% died in the South
· The Southern region has the largest proportion of AIDS cases in nonurban areas in the country
Perhaps most alarming at the statistics affecting college-aged black youngsters.
* African Americans now account for the majority of new AIDS diagnoses, making up approximately 61% of all new cases, followed by whites (24%), and Hispanic/Latinos (14%)
* Black men represented 65% of new HIV infections; a rate 6x that of White men, 3x that of Hispanic/Latino, and 2x that of Black women
* The rate of new HIV infections for Black women was 15x higher than white women, 4x higher than Hispanic/Latina women
* Young Black between the ages of 13-29 represent the largest number of new HIV infections.
Rep. Lewis is HIV tested every year in an effort to breakdown the barriers of fear for ordinary citizens who should get tested regularly, is a member of the Congressional HIV/AIDS caucus created to examine how Congress can encourage U.S. global leadership in response to the epidemic, and a proponent of releasing the shame and stigma associated with the disease.
“Because of advances in medical science and because people came out of the closet, shared their stories, and pushed for direct action regarding this disease,” said Rep. Lewis, “the presence of HIV or AIDS is no longer a death sentence. It is treated today like a chronic illness which need not completely re-arrange a person’s life. There is still an epidemic in this country, however, within the African American community. We must bring the victims out of the dark corners to receive treatment and show them how to live with this disease with grace. We must also educate, educate, and educate our young people with the fact and tell them about the epidemic to prevent their infection.”