WASHINGTON, DC — The Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) today heralded the introduction of The HIV Prevention Act of 1996, requiring partner notification and testing of accused sex offenders, in addition to new preventative reporting requirements, as an important step towards protecting women from HIV and AIDS.

The IWF joined Representative Tom Coburn (R-OK), sponsor of the legislation, and other women and health advocates at a Capitol Hill press conference.

Barbara Ledeen, IWF executive director, called passage of the legislation a crucial issue for women. “This legislation will give women the power to avoid becoming infected with this deadly disease,” Ledeen said. “It will also ensure that women who do become infected will be able to take advantage of recent scientific breakthroughs — we now have the ability to prolong and improve the quality of life of individuals who are HIV infected, but only if we diagnose and begin treatment early. Unfortunately, women often are not allowed to know that they are infected with HIV until they begin to show signs of AIDS- related illnesses.”

“Women are exposed to HIV every day without their knowledge. In many states, rape victims don’t have the right to know if their attacker is HIV-positive,” continued Ledeen. “Women have a right to protect themselves.”

“We are pleased that Congressman Coburn, who played a key role in achieving passage of recent legislation requiring HIV testing of newborns, is introducing The HIV Prevention Act of 1996.? The bill represents a major step forward in our strategy to combat the AIDS epidemic by focusing on preventative measures and facilitating the collection of important data that will assist public health officials to track the scope and direction of the disease’s spread.”

The Independent Women’s Forum is a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C.