OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) – Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) and Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico), the co-chairs of the congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, are taking the opportunity of World AIDS Day to urge an end to health care disparities between ethnic and sexual identity groups.

“On the 34th annual World Aids Day, we remember those that we have lost in the struggle against this disease and the millions across the globe that continue to fight against it,” Lee stated in a press release. “Just as the COVID-19 pandemic exposed deep health disparities, we know the HIV and AIDS epidemic disproportionately affects communities of color and LGBTQ communities, here in the US and in developing nations. As Co-Chair of the Congressional HIV & AIDS Caucus, I’m dedicated to addressing these disparities in access to life-saving sexual and reproductive healthcare, services, and education so that we can achieve the first AIDS-free generation.”

Lee introduced a resolution supporting the goals of World AIDS Day this year, which is themed “tackling inequalities which perpetuate the AIDS pandemic.” The Ryan White Minority AIDS Initiative, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief already help reduce the epidemic’s burden.

“We’ve come a long way in understanding and countering HIV and AIDS around the world, thanks to the significant improvements that have been made in research, prevention, and treatment,” González-Colón, a non-voting representative from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, stated. “Now, while we reach our goal to free our communities from this epidemic, it is necessary to strengthen outreach and educational tools to fight the stigma that continues affecting HIV patients, as well as to ensure accessible healthcare. As Co-Chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, on this 34th Annual World AIDS Day, I’m proud to support the common goal of tackling disparities in health services faced by disadvantaged HIV groups in our nation, including the over 15,848 people diagnosed in my district, Puerto Rico.”

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The human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS, has been able to be virally suppressed with medication in many cases since the mid-1990s, though access is sometimes challenging. But as KRON4 previously reported, 72 San Franciscans died in 2020 from HIV-related causes, 2019 saw 70 deaths, 2018 saw 73 and 2017 saw 83.