12/01/2011 12:30 pm ET Updated Jan 31, 2012

Marking World AIDS Day

December 1 is World AIDS Day -- a time to honor friends and loved ones lost, reflect on the tremendous progress in our collective response, and to recommit ourselves to fighting this crisis.

This year marks 30 years after the first discovery of AIDS cases in the United States. The good news is that new HIV infections worldwide are at their lowest levels since 1997. Globally, our support through PEPFAR and the Global Fund is dramatically reducing the burden of HIV/AIDS in developing countries. In the United States, with the coordinated effort outlined in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, we are making a significant difference. Additionally, recent scientific advancements have resulted in revolutionary breakthroughs with potential to reverse the epidemic in coming years.

While we have come a long way, we have much more work to do. Thirty-four million people are living with HIV globally, including 1.2 million in the United States. According to recent facts from the United Nations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Of the 15 million people medically recommended for anti-retroviral medication worldwide, only half have access to the drug treatment.
  • In the United States, nearly 1 in 5 people with HIV (or 240,000 people) don't know they are infected. As a result, these individuals do not get the care that will help them stay healthy and prevent them from infecting others.
  • Communities of color and young gay and bisexual men face the most severe burden of HIV in the United States.

Our country's global leadership will never be more important than at this pivotal moment. For the first time in 20 years, the International AIDS Conference will be held in the United States from 22 to 27 July 2012 in Washington, DC. More than 25,000 participants and 2,000 journalists from approximately 200 countries are expected to convene at the conference.
I have encouraged my colleagues in the House and Senate to mark World AIDS Day this year by joining the bicameral, bipartisan Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, and to speak about the importance of supporting domestic and international HIV/AIDS programs.

For all Americans, I encourage you to know your HIV status. Get tested if you have not done so. Use social medial resources to spread the word about HIV testing. Wear a red AIDS awareness ribbon to honor those affected by HIV/AIDS.

I firmly believe in a future for America and the world that is more prosperous, and free of HIV and AIDS and working together, we WILL achieve that goal.

Barbara Lee
Member of Congress