22 House Members Request Congressional Hearing on India's HIV/AIDS Epidemic
Washington, D.C. --- Citing a recent report by the National Intelligence Council that without the urgent implementation of a sizable, coordinated, and sustained response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic India could have as many as 25 million cases by the end of the decade, 22 members of the U.S. House of Representatives today called for a joint Congressional hearing on HIV/AIDS in India.
The formal request was made in a letter to International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL) and Ranking Member Tom Lantos (D-CA), and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-IN) and Ranking Member John Dingell (D-MI). In the bipartisan letter, organized by U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), founder of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, and Barbara Lee (D-CA), the lawmakers cite the urgent need to address the issue and the widespread support among members of Congress for a hearing.
With a national HIV/AIDS infection rate of just under one percent, as high as five percent among high risk groups, and an estimated 4.58 million people infected, India ranks just behind South Africa as the country with the largest number of HIV/AIDS cases. Despite these findings, the members wrote that they are encouraged by the Indian government's response over the past year.
"Political leadership from the Prime Minister, and in particular, a group of dedicated Parliamentarians who created a Parliamentary Forum on HIV/AIDS, have helped to motivate plans to expand prevention programs, provide anti-retroviral treatment, and draft legislation to criminalize discrimination against individuals living with HIV/AIDS," the 22 members wrote. "Nonetheless, substantial concerns still exist regarding the ability of the government, NGOs and interested foreign donors to rapidly scale up prevention programs and provide universal access to treatment services in a country as large as India.
"Given the traditionally close business and political ties between India and the United States, and India's key strategic position as our ally in a volatile region, not to mention the large bipartisan support for India from the 182 members of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans -- we believe a joint hearing on this important subject would generate considerable interest," the members continued.
In the letter, the members expressed their confidence that India could contain its HIV/AIDS pandemic and pointed to India's proactive response to the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic
as a model for an AIDS treatment program. India has the largest number of TB cases in the world, accounting for one-third of all global TB cases and one-quarter of all TB deaths. In recent years, India has made more rapid progress than any other nation in expanding effective TB treatment programs.
Following, is a list of the 22 lawmakers who signed the letter:
Frank Pallone, Jr.
Chris Van Hollen