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Rep. Maxine Waters, Legislator and Activist on HIV/AIDS in the Black Community

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By Nick Chiles, Special to the NNPA –

WASHINGTON, D.C. - One of the most prominent and effective African American members of Congress, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), has long been a fighter against the spread of HIV/AIDS in the African American community and a strong advocate for the rights and care of individuals with HIV/AIDS. Given the tremendous challenges facing our nation at a time of great possibility for people with HIV/AIDS, we asked Waters, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, to share her views.

What concerns do you have about how the challenges to health reform might affect people with HIV/AIDS?

Health disparities like HIV/AIDS, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc., for people of color are getting worse, and more and more people are going without health insurance. That's why the Affordable Care Act, also known as the health-care reform law, specifically addresses these disparities and other pre-existing conditions and makes it illegal to be denied health insurance because of them. We cannot allow the health-care reform law to be repealed, and part of the reason I voted against repeal was because the Affordable Care Act will help lessen health disparities, including those related to HIV/AIDS.

Moving forward, I'm encouraged that the president announced a National HIV/AIDS Strategy last year, with the three primary goals of reducing the number of new infections, increasing access to care for people living with HIV, and reducing HIV-related health disparities. A national strategy is something that's long overdue and something I've long called for, and I urge everyone not only to get behind it but to financially support it 150 percent. Again, ideals are one thing, but securing adequate funding to make those ideals come true is something else.

What deciding moment occurred in your life that made you become committed to this issue?

Well, for years I had been troubled by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in our community and among women, homosexual men, and other communities of color. Even though African Americans are about 12 percent of the population, we're almost half of all HIV/AIDS cases! Taken together, two-thirds of all HIV/AIDS cases involve minorities. That kind of disparity indicates a crisis, and as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus in the late 1990s, I got Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala to publicly say so after asking her about the disease's impact on the African American community.

From that admission, I began work to create the Minority AIDS Initiative. It wasn't easy, but this was a top priority for me. I held and attended many meetings, hearings, and programs with activists, academics, patients, and government officials to paint a broad but compelling narrative: The Black community was being torn apart by HIV/AIDS, and many other communities of color were not faring much better.

The Minority AIDS Initiative provides grants to community-based organizations and other health-care providers for HIV/AIDS awareness, treatment and prevention programs serving African American, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American communities. It also enables health-care providers serving minority communities to expand their capacity to deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate care and services.

I was proud to announce a $156 million funding formula for the initiative in 1998, and since 2003 I have repeatedly secured about $400 million for the initiative. Of course, we're facing a time of extreme budget austerity, but in fiscal year 2011, I was joined by 56 of my colleagues in requesting $610 million.

What HIV-related advocacy are you involved in on Capitol Hill?

I advocate for the Minority AIDS Initiative in Congress each year, and I usually like to get tested in public on Capitol Hill or in Los Angeles so others can join in and see how effortless it is. I also have some legislation from previous Congresses that hasn't made it into law yet, and which I plan to reintroduce: the Routine HIV Screening Coverage Act, which would require health-insurance plans to cover routine HIV tests under the same terms and conditions as other routine health screenings; and the Stop AIDS in Prison Act, which the House of Representatives passed in March 2009, which requires the Bureau of Prisons to test all federal-prison inmates for HIV upon entering prison and again prior to release from prison, (and) provide HIV/AIDS-prevention education for all inmates and give comprehensive treatment to inmates who test positive.

Nick Chiles is a prize-winning journalist and author who lives in Georgia. Read more about him at chilmill.com.


Ugandan Joins Commission to Protect Human Subjects Used for Studies

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

President Obama has tapped Julius Ecuru, a Ugandan environmental scientist, for an international research panel studying the use of human subjects in scientific studies.

The commission will address such controversial studies as one in Guatemala where mental patients, soldiers and prisoners were injected and otherwise contaminated with syphilis by American public health doctors to study the course of the disease. No effort was made to cure all the infected patients.

Many other studies took place between 1845 and 1990 including the well-known testing of 400 African-American sharecroppers in 1932.

However, the 37-year old Ugandan may draw fire over his work in bio-technology and genetically modified (GM) organisms. Schools throughout the U.K., the U.S. and parts of Europe have banned GM foods as unsafe and not fully tested. Other countries which have banned GM crops include Zambia, Venezuela, Hungary, and India for some crops.

The international panel will deliver its recommendations and findings to President Obama before October this year.

North Carolina Democrats Reach Out to HBCUs

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By Herbert L. White, Special to the NNPA from The Charlotte Post –

North Carolina Democrats are looking to strengthen ties with students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The College Democrats of North Carolina will hold a leadership conference for HBCU students in late March in Greensboro. The forum – a first for the state Democratic Party – will focus on engaging students in the political process, political activity, and on-campus leadership. North Carolina has 11 HBCUs, second only to Alabama.

"HBCU students have a unique story and this HBCU Leadership Conference is here to ensure that we give them a voice and a seat at the table," said N.C. A&T student D.J. McKelvey, CDNC’s Black college coordinator.

U.S. Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) will be among the panelists and speakers, which include N.C. State Reps. Marcus Brandon and Alma Adams, N.C. Sen. Gladys Robinson and state Democratic Party Chair David Parker. Panel topics include “HBCUs, Politics and History,” “Black Women and Politics,” “How to Run for Public Office” and “Campaign and Professional Involvement.”

Party activists see the conference as an opportunity to strengthen ties between Democrats and young voters whose support helped Barack Obama carry North Carolina in the 2008 presidential election.

"The College Democrats of North Carolina recognize the importance of engaging HBCU students,” CDNC President Tori Taylor said.

Dallas Mayor Caraway Releases Final Statement on Domestic Incident

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By Lashonda Cooks, Special to NNPA from The Dallas Examiner –

Two months after the city's biggest newspaper and its attorneys requested all records and police reports regarding the Jan. 2ND Caraway domestic incident, it - and the rest of the world - can finally put their curiosity to rest and hear exactly what occurred that fateful evening within the mayor's household. The Dallas Morning News' request on the week of Jan. 14 sparked a tabloid-like frenzy amongst six other area news outlets to force the city to release the information under the open records law.

Initially, the city attorney's office was skeptical. The office questioned whether the records should be withheld based on Mayor Dwaine Caraway's right to privacy. According to privacy law, information can be withheld, if it both contains "highly intimate or embarrassing fact" and is of "no legitimate concern to the public."

The city attorney's office consulted the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for advice. The Dallas Morning News also contacted the attorney general with a letter arguing in favor of the document's release. The letter maintained that the records are of legitimate concern to the public because Caraway leveraged his position as a public official throughout the incident. It referenced how Caraway directly contacted Police Chief David Brown instead of calling 9-1-1 as one of the reasons for the records' release. Ultimately, Abbott agreed that the records should be made public.

In response, on March 8, Caraway sued Abbott and the City of Dallas and received a temporary restraining order preventing the records' release until a hearing on March 22 stressing its importance to protecting his family's privacy. To counter, The Dallas Morning News' attorneys filed a plea for intervention of Caraway's suit, stating that Caraway "cannot meet his high burden of proof to show the information is not of legitimate public concern."

Last Week, Caraway and his lawyer Michael Payma lost their bid for an extension of the restraining order. The records, including a 20-minute audio recording taped on the evening of the incident without Caraway's knowledge, were released. The audio detailed a private statement regarding an altercation between the mayor and his wife State Representative Barbara Caraway.

Immediately after the tape was released, the mayor issued an official statement. The statement is below:

"I have contended from the start that the recording contains deeply personal and private information. There is no public interest in this information and I have made every effort to protect my family's privacy. But I respect the ruling of the court and it's time to move on. This morning, I assembled top City Staff and asked them to join me in focusing on the important issues in front of our city - reducing crime, attracting jobs and businesses, getting through another tough budget year and moving Dallas forward. I will not be discussing this issue further."

Controversial Ad Featuring Serena Williams Shelved

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

A racy video game ad featuring Serena Williams won’t be aired on broadcast television after the game’s developer said it was too risqué.

The ad for “Top Spin 4” features Williams as “the world’s sexiest tennis player” facing off against Rileah Vanderbilt, an actress labeled “the world’s sexiest tennis gamer.” The scantily-clad women make suggestive facial expressions, motions, and moaning while showing lots of skin, to the tune of a techno soundtrack.

The public response to the ad, after Vanderbilt allegedly introduced it to cyberspace through her Twitter account, was negative. As a result, 2K Sports, the game’s developer, canned the commercial and distanced itself from it.

“As part of the process for creating marketing campaigns to support our titles, we pursue a variety of creative avenues,” the company said in a statement. “This video is not part of the title's final marketing campaign and its distribution was unauthorized.”

However, to some people, 2K Sports’ response rings hollow. Many say that the company was behind the ad from the start, but didn’t want to deal with the negative attention it brought.

“2K Sports deliberately created an absurdly racy ad to drum up interest in the game but didn’t have the courage to officially endorse the commercial because of possible public backlash,” a commentary on the Web site Sports by Brooks said.

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BVN National News Wire