Letter from Project 21 to the Congressional Black Caucus Regarding AIDS

The Honorable Maxine Waters
Congressional Black Caucus
2344 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Madam Chairwoman:

As AIDS continues to ravage black communities in America, we as members
and associates of the black leadership group Project 21 are urging you to
give serious attention to provisions contained in the “HIV Prevention Act
of 1997” as a means of combating AIDS in the black community.

Key components of the legislation include the following:

1) A confidential national HIV reporting effort. Currently, states do
not report cases of HIV infections, but of AIDS, the endstage of HIV to
the Centers for Disease Control.

2) A partner notification provision that provides the partners of an
individual with HIV an appropriate opportunity to learn that they have
been exposed to HIV, without compromising the anonymity of the individual
responsible for exposing them to the disease.

3) HIV testing for sexual offenders. Most states allow rape victims to
find out their attackers’ HIV status only after conviction, which may
take years.

4) Policies that seek to protect both health care providers and patients
from unwarranted HIV exposure.

5) A requirement that any applicant required to take an HIV test by an
insurance issuer be informed of the results.

6) Approval of the notification of adoptive parents as to the HIV status
of a child they are prepared to adopt.

7) Expression of the sense of Congress that the intentional transmission
of HIV should be punished as criminal behavior by the states.

The American Medical Association’s (AMA) Executive Vice President, Dr.
P. John Seward, has written that the Act “…would refocus public health
efforts on HIV prevention by using proven health techniques designed for
communicable diseases. These public health initiatives which result in
early detection of HIV infection are now more important because of the
tremendous advances that medical science has made. Early intervention
combined with effective treatments will enable those with HIV and AIDS to
live longer, healthier lives… The AMA believes this bill will greatly
increase public health HIV prevention efforts that until now have focused
on AIDS.”

The Centers for Disease Control’s statistics clearly indicate that a
primary group to benefit from early HIV detection and partner
notification is black Americans. In 1996, non-Hispanic blacks accounted
for 41% of adults reported with AIDS. AIDS-opportunistic illnesses per
100,000 population were approximately sevenfold higher among non-Hispanic
blacks (99) than among non-Hispanic whites (15) in 1995.

Adult and adolescent females accounted for 18 percent of the AIDS
caseload in 1994, up from 7 percent in 1985. The AIDS rate for black
women is 16 times greater than that for white U.S. women. HIV infection
was the leading cause of death for black women between the ages of 25-44
in 1993. Early partner notification would especially benefit women since
studies indicate that 50-70% of women infected with HIV didn’t engage in
high risk behaviors, but were infected by a partner who did.
Heterosexual contact with an HIV-infected man is the most rapidly
increasing transmission category among women.

Not surprisingly, black children are suffering the consequences of the
explosion of AIDS cases among women. Six of every ten U.S. children who
acquired AIDS in the womb or upon birth are black. HIV/AIDS is the
second leading cause of death for non-Hispanic black children 1-4 years
of age in New York. Of the black children under the age of 13 who have
AIDS, 95% acquired HIV infection during gestation or upon birth.

Recent National Center for Health Statistics paint a bleak future if
something isn’t done soon. There were 259 new AIDS cases reported among
non-Hispanic black children under age 13 from January through June in
1995, meaning black children accounted for 63% of all new cases among
children during that time period. Black females over 13 accounted for
59% of all new AIDS cases among all women from January to June of 1995.
Black men accounted for 37% of new AIDS cases among all men over 13 from
the same time period.

Research clearly indicates that the earlier HIV is detected, the more
effective the drugs used to treat it will be. For too long, this disease
has not been treated as a public health crises, but as a civil rights
struggle. Sound medical practices have been sacrificed at the altar of
political correctness.

The reality is people are dying. And they’re dying in epidemic numbers.
Thankfully, you are not in a helpless situation. As a member of the
105th Congress, you can use the power of your position to make sure a
responsible AIDS policy is pursued: one that can greatly benefit the
black community.

Sincerely yours,

Edmund Peterson
Project 21

Mildred F. Jefferson, M.D.
Chairman, Citizens Select Committee on Public Health Oversight

Joseph H. Brown
Tampa Tribune

Niger Innis
CORE/Project 21/MSNBC

Phyllis Berry Myers
Project 21/Co-Chairman, BAMPAC

Star Parker
Coalition on Urban Affairs, President

Keith Jones
Senior Pastor of Rock Church of D.C./Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner

Chanal D. Jones
Co-Pastor of Rock Church of D.C.

Horace Cooper
Project 21

Sherry P. Jackson
Network of Politically Active Christians

Burgess Owens
Project 21/Senior U.P. Summit Financial Resources/ Former Professional
Football Player

Glenn C. Loury
Professor of Economics, Boston University

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson
President of Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny/Project 21 Board

Chris S. Mergerson
Office of Rep. J.C. Watts

Stuart Pigler
Office of Michigan State Senate Majority Leader Dick Posthumus/Project 21

Roderick Conrad
McKenna & Cuneo L.L.P.

James Coleman
Nameloc Enterprises

Telly Lovelace
Project 21

Rev. Dwight E. Williams Sr.
Project 21

Council Nedd
Project 21

Richard L. Dixon
Command Presences, Inc./Project 21

Ryan D. Adams
Project 21

Clarence Mason Weaver
President, Committee to Restore America

Teresa Jeter Chappell
President, Republican Vanguard/Project 21

B.B. Robinson
Eye on the Media, Inc.

Renee Stikes
Small Business Survival Committee

Kevin Washington
Project 21

Gerald A. Reynolds
President, Center for New Black Leadership/Project 21

Ms. Randie Hofer
Ocean Drive Improvement Association

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.