Knowledge Saves Lives

As Vice Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, I do all I can to ensure that California remains at the forefront in combating serious threats to public health. Raising awareness about diseases, preventing their spread and providing information about treatments can be critical. That’s why I strongly support World AIDS Day 35, which took place on December 1st.

Over the past few decades, there have been significant medical advances in treating HIV/AIDS. But the disease is still a major threat to public health at home and around the world. According to the California Department of Public Health, the number of new HIV cases declined between 2017 and 2021, from 4,905 to 4,444. That’s a decrease of 9.4%, but it’s still too many.

Worldwide, the disease has devastated parts of Africa -- South Africa is the hardest hit. 20 percent of all people living with HIV and 20 percent of all new HIV infections occur in that country. Nearly 60 percent are women, and children can be infected by their mothers during child birth. In 2003 President George W. Bush announced the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). As a result, new drugs developed in the late 90s were made available to millions. It’s believed that PEPFAR has saved 25 million lives in Africa.

Historically, HIV/AIDS has been most prevalent among gay and bisexual men, African Americans and young people between 15 and 24, as well as those who inject drugs. But that may be changing, at least in part. Last year in Great Britain, HIV diagnoses among heterosexuals was higher than among gay or bisexual men for the first time.

On the 1st, my office participated in World AIDS Day commemorations in San Diego, and over the years I have introduced a number of bills dealing with this public health emergency. But our goal – getting to zero new infections – lies in the future. Too many are still undiagnosed and untreated, and the disease still spreads. But we can stop the spread, if we spread the word.