- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2006

On World AIDS Day yesterday, the White House and CDC urged many more Americans to be tested for HIV, pointing out that one-quarter of the 1 million people infected in this country do not even know it, and that the uninformed are contributing greatly to the spread of the disease.

“Of the approximately 40,000 new [U.S. HIV] transmissions occurring annually, about half are spread by individuals unaware they are infecting others,” according to a White House statement.

“Far too many Americans with HIV are not diagnosed until years after they were infected, when it may be too late to fully benefit from available treatments,” Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in her own statement.

“If we are to defeat HIV/AIDS,” she said, “we must ensure that people know whether or not they are infected, so those who are HIV-positive can receive life-extending treatment and take steps to protect their partners.”

In September, the CDC issued new guidelines that recommended routine HIV screening for all patients between 13 and 64. Dr. Gerberding said yesterday the agency thinks the new recommendations “will help reach many of the at least 250,000 Americans who are unaware of their infection.”

World AIDS Day has been observed annually on Dec. 1 since 1988. The AIDS epidemic was first reported in 1981. .

Mr. Bush commemorated World AIDS Day by calling on the Senate to follow the lead of the House by reauthorizing the $2.1 billion Ryan White CARE Act. The legislation, officially known as the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, funds programs that ensure HIV/AIDS patients get the medical care they need even if they lack insurance or have exhausted their policies.

The president said yesterday HIV/AIDS cases are “especially high” among these populations: blacks, Hispanics, homosexual and bisexual men of all races, prison inmates and intravenous drug users.

Renewal of this act has been delayed in the Senate because of opposition from three Democrats, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer of New York and Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey. The lawmakers are concerned because some states, including New York, would see reductions in AIDS-program funding totaling millions of dollars under the renewed law. Funds would be shifted to the South, where new rates of HIV infection are highest.

In honor of World AIDS Day, an anniversary first organized by the World Health Organization, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist urged the senators to drop their opposition. Without naming the lawmakers, Mr. Frist said in a statement: “I ask my colleagues from New York and New Jersey to stop blocking this crucial, lifesaving piece of legislation.”

Worldwide, approximately 39 million people are infected with HIV, according to Mr. Bush, who discussed achievements being made under the administration’s emergency plan for AIDS relief. That program is committed to providing $15 billion over five years in 15 countries that account for about half of all HIV infections. Mr. Bush said this funding has increased 16 times the number of people in those countries receiving “life-saving drugs” for HIV: from 50,000 to more than 800,000.

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