Three decades after it was first reported nationally, HIV/AIDS has proven to be one of the most serious global health concerns in modern history, infecting and affecting people across the lines of race, class, religion, and sexual orientation. In the United States, approximately 1.1 million people are living with HIV/AIDS and an estimated 56,300 Americans are newly infected with HIV each year. Moreover, as a result of health care disparities and other persistent challenges such as stigma and homophobia, new HIV infections are higher among African Americans, Hispanics, and men who have sex with men (MSM) than other groups.
Thanks to the dedication of countless scientists, health care providers, government officials, organizations, and activists, more and more people can live with HIV/AIDS rather than die from it. And while we are closer to realizing an AIDS-free generation than ever before, HIV/AIDS remains a significant public health challenge, with high rates of infection disproportionately impacting many communities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in six HIV-positive individuals are unaware that they are infected, which means that they may be transmitting HIV without knowing it. This underscores the critical importance of increasing access to prevention services, treatment, and education.
Although HIV/AIDS knows no borders, the disease has taken a particularly devastating toll on my Congressional district. My home state of Florida continues to rank among the top-three states in the nation in reported HIV/AIDS cases. Nearly half of these are concentrated in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Orange Counties, with Broward County having the highest rate of HIV infection per-capita in the country. In addition, South Florida leads the nation in new HIV cases per capita, and the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis is also on the rise.
As a Member of Congress since 1993, I believe that it is critically important to educate and empower individuals to take control of their health, and that access to testing is the key to reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS. I will continue working to improve health care services for people living with HIV/AIDS, including within the framework of the Affordable Care Act. Furthermore, I remain committed to supporting the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), the Ryan White Program, and the National AIDS Strategy.