In honor of World AIDS Day last Thursday, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer (one of 33 cosponsors) participated in the reintroduction of the “Stop AIDS in Prison Act”. The bill was originally introduced by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). Previously, this bill was passed by the House by voice vote; however the Senate lacked to complete the bill prior to adjournment.
“The Stop AIDS in Prison Act will help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS among prison inmates, encourage them to take personal responsibility for their health, and reduce the risk that they will transmit HIV/AIDS to other people in the community following their release from prison,” Waters stated in a press release last week.
Rep. Waters is currently sponsoring multiple initiatives in Congress to promote HIV and AIDS awareness. This includes testing, treatment, and promoting HIV screening. She is also expanding the Minority AIDS Initiative, which she created in 1998 as Chairwoman of Congressional Black Caucus. This initiative will expand testing and treatment among ethnic minorities.
In November, Waters sent a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services advising routine annual screening for HIV in the Essential Health Benefits package under the Affordable Care Act. Nearly 54 members of congress signed the letter. Also, Rep. Waters plans to reintroduce the Routine HIV Screening Coverage Act-which requires health insurance plans to cover routine HIV tests under the same terms as other health screenings. There are 46 cosponsors to this bill.
Personally, I find it nearly offensive that both of these bills have to be re-introduced. The fact that insurance does not cover regular HIV screening is appalling to me. Our prison systems suffer from many things. The fact that on a federal level there is not more required to prevent HIV/AIDS, in this day in age, is ridiculous! I hope I am speaking not only for myself, when I say I hope Obama will get to sign this bill into law. Fingers crossed.