HARRISBURG– State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, commended the lawmakers and health-care leaders who came together at the state Capitol to highlight National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which was observed Feb. 7.
Wheatley explained that the purpose of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is to build the capacity and increase awareness, participation and support for HIV prevention, care and treatment among African-Americans.
“Even though African-Americans comprise about 14 percent of the United States population, almost one-half of the estimated new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the United States in 2010 were for African-Americans,” Wheatley said. “Prevention is important, and we need people around the state to raise awareness of this problem.”
At today’s event, state Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila., said he plans to introduce two bills that would help prevent the spread of HIV by requiring private insurance companies to cover Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) HIV medication.
“Low-income and minority Pennsylvanians are at much higher risk of contracting HIV, in large part because they lack access to these life-saving treatments,” Sims said. “Covering these preventive tools would save lives, reduce suffering and even save money in the long run for taxpayers and insurers.”
Pennsylvania Physical General Rachel Levine and Dr. Albertha Graham-Ellison, vice president and program director of Educating Teens about HIV/AIDS Inc., also spoke about the HIV/AIDS crisis and the need for people to get tested.
In Pennsylvania, information on HIV and AIDS and confidential HIV testing sites is available from the state’s AIDS fact line – 1-800-662-6080. State and national information on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and the impact of HIV and AIDS on African-Americans is available at www.blackaidsday.org.