Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43)
Participants call for increased funding for Minority AIDS Initiative; greater accountability to ensure funds benefit minority communities
On Saturday, May 2, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43) welcomed Congresswoman Robin Kelly (IL-2) to Los Angeles to a discussion of “HIV/AIDS and the Black Community,” at an event at Charles R. Drew University. Congresswoman Kelly, one of the newest Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), has been selected to lead the CBC’s Health Braintrust, which works to address health disparities and improve health outcomes for all Americans. In this capacity, Congresswoman Kelly has made HIV/AIDS one of her top priorities.
“I was delighted that my colleague, Congresswoman Robin Kelly, the new chair of the CBC’s Health Braintrust, wanted to hear from experts and activists in the field in Los Angeles about where we are in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Congresswoman Waters.
“The Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust is committed to closing the disparities gap for infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS,” said Congresswoman Kelly. “As the Health Braintrust Chair, I’m working to reach communities across the country to learn about their unique challenges in combating the disease. Thank you to Congresswoman Waters for hosting us and bringing together such a dynamic group of stakeholders who are on the front lines in the fight against HIV/AIDS. I look forward to continuing to work with her to develop legislative and policy strategies to promote and support community efforts to eradicate HIV/AIDS.”
The event was greeted and welcomed to Charles R. Drew University by President David Carlisle and featured a panel of distinguished experts, led by Dr. Wilbert Jordan, founder and director of the Oasis Clinic at Charles R. Drew University, a 35-year veteran in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Panelists included Carrie Broadus, resident advisor for Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches and former executive director of the Women Alive Coalition, considered one of the nation’s leading authorities and advocates on issues facing women living with HIV; Dr. Nina Harawa, Adjunct Associate Professor with the UCLA Geffen Schools of Medicine and Public Health, and Associate Professor at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, trained in epidemiology; Dr. Cleo Manago, CEO/President of AmASSI National Health Systems and a behavioral health specialist; Dr. Orlando Pile, Chief of Communicable Diseases at the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department; Mr. Tony Wafford, President and CEO of I Choose Life Health and Wellness Center, an organization founded to address heath disparities in the Black community; and Vallerie D. Wagner, COO of AIDS Project L.A. Health & Wellness, a federally qualified health center with locations throughout L.A. County. The audience was composed of many longtime HIV/AIDS activists and advocates from medical facilities, religious institutions, universities, civil rights organizations and non-profits.
Panelists presented sobering statistics that demonstrate the continuing threat of HIV/AIDS throughout the United States and its disproportionate impact on African Americans. For example, in 2011, out of the more than 1.2 million Americans with HIV, only 86% knew they were infected, and only 37% were receiving medical treatment. Furthermore, in 2013, 45% of diagnoses of HIV infection among adults and adolescents were in African Americans.
Following the panel presentations, panelists and participants engaged in a spirited discussion. Among the topics discussed was the Minority AIDS Initiative, which Congresswoman Waters established in 1998 to target HIV/AIDS prevention, testing and treatment funds to minority communities. Participants agreed on the need for increased funding for the initiative, as well as greater accountability, so as to ensure that the funds are actually used in minority communities and in ways that benefit minority patients and individuals at risk in these communities.
The program concluded with a visit to the Oasis Clinic, where many Angelinos living with HIV/AIDS receive treatment. The visit was led by Dr. Jordan.
“As we return to Washington, Congresswoman Kelly and I will fight to secure the necessary support and resources for minority communities – like the Black community here in Los Angeles County – to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and provide life-prolonging treatment to individuals who have already been infected by this terrible disease,” said Congresswoman Waters.
(All Courtesy Photos)