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House of Representatives Passes Stop AIDS in Prison Act of 2007

Calls on Senate to Introduce and Pass an Identical Bill

WASHINGTON, Sep. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AIDS Action Council applauds the House of Representatives for passing H.R. 1943, The Stop AIDS in Prison Act of 2007 earlier today. The bill filed by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) in April would provide routine non-mandatory (opt out) HIV counseling and testing at entry and release from federal prisons and allow inmates to request an HIV test while ensuring that they would not be penalized by prison officials for making that request. The bipartisan bill passed unanimously out of the House Judiciary Committee in late July. AIDS Action supports the Stop AIDS in Prison Act of 2007 and calls on the Senate to introduce and pass an identical bill.

The rate of confirmed AIDS cases is three times higher among prison inmates than in the U.S. general population, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin most recently revised on March 1, 2007, including data through 2004, the most recently compiled data.

"Passage of this bill recognizes the need to provide counseling, testing and treatment of HIV positive federal prisoners and is a first step towards recognizing the public health threat that HIV poses throughout the criminal justice system," said Rebecca Haag, Executive Director, AIDS Action Council. "The opt-out testing procedures for people who are incarcerated in the federal prison system will help us to ensure that the rights of prisoners are protected while at the same time helping to ensure that they can get tested and receive the counseling and HIV treatment and care that they need. This bill will accomplish that delicate balance," she added.

AIDS Action continues to work with legislators to prioritize the needs of people living with HIV by making life-saving drugs, medical treatment, and essential support services available to all who are HIV positive, and to highlight the importance of HIV prevention. More than 250,000 people in the U.S. know they are infected with HIV but do not have access to HIV care, and an additional 250,000 -- 300,000 people in the U.S. are infected with HIV but are unaware of their positive status.

"As many as 1.2 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the United States; we need a national strategy to end the patchy and unequal application of prevention, treatment and care available to everyone including people who are incarcerated," Haag said. "The Stop AIDS in Prison Act of 2007 will complement our efforts to make best practices in treatment and care available to all people."

AIDS Action strives to end the HIV epidemic by advancing public policies that prevent new infections, provide care for people living with HIV, and support the search for a cure. AIDS Action serves as the national voice for AIDS service organizations, health departments, and a diverse network of community-based organizations across the country that provide services for people living with or affected by HIV infection.

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