For Immediate Release: March 11, 2008
Senate Approves Creation of HIV/AIDS Task Force
The Oklahoma State Senate approved legislation Tuesday by a 47-0 vote, creating a 13-member task force to examine the HIV/AIDS problem in Oklahoma’s minority communities and make recommendations for action.
Senate Bill 1829, was authored by State Senator Judy Eason-McIntyre, D-Tulsa, and co-authored by Senator Constance N. Johnson, D-Oklahoma County. It now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
“HIV/AIDS is an epidemic nationwide and growing at an even faster rate within communities of color,” Eason McIntyre said. “I believe this task force is the first step in truly addressing this problem head-on. We have to raise awareness and increase the knowledge of this deadly disease in Oklahoma. Protecting Oklahoma minority citizens from HIV/AIDS is a critical priority. This task force will study the best ways to curb the rate of new cases and find the best options for testing and treatment.”
The task force mandate includes assessing the problem of HIV and AIDS in the minority community; including the availability of access to testing and treatment; review programs throughout the nation that have had success in promoting HIV testing and in reducing the rate of new HIV infections; and in coordination with the State Department of Health, identify funds available from the state and federal government that may be used as grants for a pilot program for innovative and effective strategies to promote HIV testing.
The task force will also hold two statewide meetings, one in Oklahoma City and one in Tulsa, to allow the public to present all views and concerns regarding HIV and AIDS. It will publish a report of its findings and recommendations by Dec.1, 2008.
Task force members will include appointees from Gov. Brad Henry; the Speaker of the House; the Senate Pro Tempore; and designees from the Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; the State Commissioner of Health; the Chief Executive Officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority; and the State Department of Public Instruction. Its first meeting will be held by July 15.
Heather Nash, community programs coordinator with the Tulsa Red Cross, applauded Sen. Eason McIntyre for her legislation and hopes the task force will prove to be an invaluable educational tool.
“HIV/AIDS is in a crisis mode and this task force is the start to identifying and changing behaviors that put minorities at risk,” Nash said. “Minorities make up the majority of the HIV/AIDS cases in the United States, but account for 29 percent of the U.S. population. Oklahoma’s HIV testing rate for minorities is low compared to other states because of the lack of testing. Many minorities (especially blacks) are finding out their HIV positive at the same time that they finding out that they have an AIDS related illness. This goes back to HIV not being on the conscience of those truly at risk for the virus.”
For more information contact: