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National HIV Prevention Conference -- Highlights of Final Day

By Ronald Valdiserri, M.D., M.P.H.

August 18, 2011

Dr. Ronald Valdiserri.

Dr. Ronald Valdiserri.

This article was cross-posted from the blog.

This is the final in our series of daily highlights from the National HIV Prevention Conference which wrapped up yesterday in Atlanta.

Focus on Reducing HIV-Related Disparities

The first of Wednesday's two plenary sessions addressed the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) goal of reducing HIV-related health disparities and health inequities. Three panelists offered perspectives on the current state of HIV-related disparities in the United States including differences related to the geographic and population based distribution of disease, incidence of new infections, health outcomes and mortality. They also explored the role of social determinants in creating, perpetuating or combating HIV-related disparities and inequality. The panelists reviewed some of the promising interventions, policy changes and partnerships that can be adopted to narrow persistent HIV-related inequities.

Lessons for the Road Ahead from 30 Years of HIV/AIDS Advocacy

Phill Wilson of the Black AIDS Institute addresses the closing plenary. Listening are (l-r) CDC's Dr. Rich Wolitski, Dr. Marjorie Hill of GMHC, Michelle Lopez of NAPWA, and Dr. Ron Valdiserri of HHS. Photo credit: Larry Bryant, HousingWorks.

Phill Wilson of the Black AIDS Institute addresses the closing plenary. Listening are (l-r) CDC's Dr. Rich Wolitski, Dr. Marjorie Hill of GMHC, Michelle Lopez of NAPWA, and Dr. Ron Valdiserri of HHS. Photo credit: Larry Bryant, Housing Works.

The conference's closing plenary featured stirring reflections on 30 years of community leadership, advocacy and activism from three distinguished, longtime leaders from the community: Ms. Michelle Lopez, Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Association of People With AIDS (NAPWA); Mr. Phill Wilson, Executive Director, Black AIDS Institute; and Dr. Marjorie Hill, Chief Executive Offer, Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City.

Closing Thoughts on the Road Ahead

Finally, I was honored to offer some reflections to close the plenary and the conference. I focused on moving forward in our collective efforts to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. My four parting thoughts for the participants were:

  1. After four days of informative sessions, information sharing, and often impassioned discussion, I appealed to the participants to remember that while we may not always agree on how best to get there, we all share the same goal: realizing the vision of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
  2. It is also clear that we will continue to grapple with the issue of unmet HIV prevention, care and treatment needs. But, as we move forward, we all need to do a better job of sharing the resources that are available -- using what we have to get what we want. In some instances, this will entail redirection of resources by geography or population. It also means that we must scale up priority programs -- and scale back programs that are not having sufficient impact in terms of health outcomes. I reminded participants that as resources are redirected we must carefully consider the impacts of such redirection and plan for them accordingly.
  3. We all have to use data more wisely to make decisions that better serve our clients and communities. HIV surveillance and other data that we collect must be used to take actions that will improve the health and well being of communities suffering from HIV. At the federal level, we have to start asking for data in ways that are consistent across agencies and programs as well as be reasonable regarding the number of data elements requested from our grantees. I made a commitment to continue to work to reduce reporting burden among health departments and other organizations receiving federal HIV/AIDS funds.
  4. Finally, we all have to continue to communicate, even when we don't agree. Meetings such as the National HIV Prevention Conference serve as an important forum for sharing our different ideas, perspectives and experiences.

Ronald Valdiserri, M.D., M.P.H., is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Cross-posted from White House Office of National AIDS Policy Blog.)

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