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Rep. Lewis Introduces the HELP Act for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

February 7, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In recognition of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Representative John Lewis (GA) introduced H.R. 5806, the HIV Epidemic Loan-Repayment Program (HELP) Act.  This legislation would support existing health care professionals and encourage those who aspire to support those living with HIV/AIDS.

Upon introducing the bill, Representative Lewis said, “We need to support all our brothers and sisters who are living with HIV/ AIDS.  Their lives are precious, and policy makers must ensure that there are enough qualified, dedicated health professionals to care, support, and guidance for them. Congress must continue to do our part to end HIV in the United States, and the HELP Act moves our country in the right direction.  We are in this together.” 

Since 1999, the nation pauses every February 7th to recognize National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, intended to raise awareness about prevention, care, and treatment in communities of color.  Despite an overall decrease in transmission rates, African Americans account for a disproportionate 42 percent of new HIV diagnoses in the United States.   These statistics are even more pronounced in the American South, and Georgia ranks third in the number of Black men, women, and youth living with HIV.

Thirty years ago, doctors, researchers, activists, family, and friends fought for and encouraged Congress to pass the Ryan White Care Act, which established a national strategy to manage HIV/AIDS.  As a result of this sustained, strategic investment, a diagnosis is no longer a death sentence, and improvements in treatment help people who are HIV-positive thrive, live, and manage their health.  The primary obstacle to stopping new infections is keeping people in care.  Unfortunately, there is an increasing shortage of qualified healthcare professionals needed to provide care for people living with HIV and ultimately working to end the disease.

The HIV Epidemic Loan-Repayment Program (HELP) Act responds to this emerging crisis by creating a new loan repayment program to help replenish the field of professionals.  H.R. 5806 authorizes up to $250,000 over five years in loan repayment to physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and dentists, who provide HIV treatment in health professional shortage areas or at Ryan White funded clinical sites.