Tomorrow, as we commemorate World AIDS Day, we must reflect both on the lives lost so far and on our continued moral obligation to ensure we provide necessary treatment and research to assist those living with HIV/AIDS.
As a senior member of the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I have
fought hard for increased federal dollars for New York to treat more than 111,000 New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS today. New York remains the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in our nation with nearly 18 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases in the United States.
Last year, during the reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act, which addresses the unmet primary care and health support needs of low income people living with HIV/AIDS, I led the charge to stave off the Administrations proposal to dramatically shift needed funding away from New York. This year, we were able to achieve record increases in funding nationwide for the Ryan White CARE Act in the Labor-Health and Human Service appropriations bill. Sadly, President Bush vetoed this critical legislation on November 13, 2007.
I have also introduced the bi-partisan Early Treatment for HIV Act, which reforms rules in the Medicaid program which mandates that people be disabled by AIDS before receiving treatment.
This rule is inconsistent with national health guidelines for those with HIV, which recommends early and aggressive treatment for those with HIV to keep their illnesses from progressing to AIDS. My bill will allow states to treat low-income individuals with HIV under the Medicaid program. HIV no longer has to be a death sentence with the new medical treatments available today.
Globally, we must also continue to be mindful of the 33 million individuals currently living with HIV/AIDS. Over 5700 people die each day from AIDS related illnesses and the United States must provide adequate resources to help stop the global scourge of AIDS. As you may know, tuberculosis is the leading infectious killer among adults with HIV/AIDS as it preys upon these individuals with weakened immune systems. I am pleased to report that my bill, H.R. 1567, the Stop Tuberculosis Now Act recently passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly and is currently awaiting action by the U.S.
Senate. Worldwide, tuberculosis kills 1.6 million adults and 1.4 million children each year. My bill will go a long way towards providing resources to those with both HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
I am proud that the AIDS Institute has decided to honor me with their "HIV/AIDS Care & Treatment Award for 2007" for my work in Congress. I am grateful for the award but am equally aware that World AIDS Day must prompt us to examine what progress we have made and to reevaluate what additional steps should be taken to combat this deadly epidemic. Working together, we can address both prevention and early treatment options and hopefully one day find a cure for AIDS. Be assured that I will continue to work hard in Congress on both the House Energy and Commerce Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee to make a difference every day for those living with HIV/AIDS.
Eliot L. Engel
MEMBER OF CONGRESS