Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee released the following statement today announcing a $10.46 million grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services to the Harris County Health Department to provide emergency assistance to current HIV Relief Projects underway.

“I am pleased to announce that the Harris County Health Department has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the amount of $10,459,873.00 to fund the HIV Emergency Relief Projects in our communities. The rates of HIV/AIDS in Harris County are alarming and this grant will improve, assist, and strengthen prevention programs and treatment strategies currently in place in Harris County.

“According to the Harris County Health Department there are at least 27,650 known individuals currently living with HIV/AIDS in Harris County and that, on average, every 7 hours another person is infected with HIV. Even more alarming is that African Americans account for 54% of those infected by the HIV virus and that HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among African Americans between the ages of 25 and 44, which is more than heart disease, accidents, cancer, and homicide.

“This $10.46 million HIV Emergency Relief grant will provide funding for many local community organizations fighting on the front lines of the HIV epidemic and to promote new and innovative approaches to HIV testing, prevention, and education. Funding will also be available to 5th generation testing equipment, which can detect HIV antibodies and antigens as early as two weeks from the transmission date and can do it in as little as 60 seconds.

“I am very pleased this grant also covers funding to link people living with AIDS to care strategies and funding to increase awareness and implementation of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a preventative medication that if taken properly will reduce the likelihood of person who is HIV negative from becoming HIV positive.

“Finally, this funding will help to eliminate stigma surrounded by HIV testing in various disenfranchised communities, one of those communities being the African American community.

“Twenty-five years from now, I hope that we will not be discussing data on prevalence and mortality, but rather how our sustained efforts to prevent the spread of the HIV/AIDs virus has been as successful as the effort to eradicate polio. But if we are to reach that point, we must continue research on treatments and antiretroviral therapies, and ensure that everyone who needs treatment receives it. In order to do this, we have to increase awareness of testing, access to testing, and the accuracy of testing.

“The substantial grant awarded to the Harris County Health Department will save lives and bring desperately needed relief to persons living with HIV/AIDS. I am proud to have have sponsored and supported the legislation that provided the funding that made this grant possible.” 

Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat representing Houston in the U.S. House of Representatives, is a senior member of the House Committees on Homeland Security and the Judiciary. She is the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.

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